The Exorcist - Complete Anthology Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Warner Home Video
Directed by William Friedkin, John Boorman, William Peter Blatty, Renny Harlin, Paul Schrader
Written by Various
2015, 708 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on October 26th 2015
Linda Blair as Regan
Max von Sydow as Father Merrin
Jason Miller as Father Kerras
George C. Scott as Kinderman
Brad Dourif as The Gemini Killer
Richard Burton as Father Lamont
One stone-cold classic, one of the worst horror sequels of all time, and a whole lot of middling in-between. Horror box sets are a dubious prospect at the best of times, with pretty much every franchise in existence having its own dud or two (hello most Halloween sequels and the Matthew McConaughey Chainsaw atrocity). That said, horror sequels don't get much worse than The Exorcist II and its notoriously bad prequels, so the big question is... can The Complete Anthology survive its big fat elephants in the room?
To make up for the duff lot, there's two cuts of the original film – theatrical and extended (but, crucially, not The Version You've Never Seen, and its unwelcome Star Wars CGI) depending on your preference. As with most of the classics, there's not much one can say about The Exorcist that hasn't been said before – especially given its past controversy and subsequent recognition by the mainstream as one of the greatest movies of all time (or the greatest, if you'll listen to certain quiff haired, bespectacled critic personalities). That's top marks for at least two out of six discs, then, and a fine investment if you've never seen The Exorcist (for shame!) or are looking to upgrade to Blu-ray.
Sadly, it doesn't take long for the quality to take a dip. No sooner is Friedkin's masterpiece out of the way than we're presented with a movie so bad it makes Michael Myers's worst instalments look like, well, Carpenter's original. There's an argument to be had that horror films don't naturally lend themselves to sequels and franchising – in spite of the amount we frequently get – and nothing makes the argument quite like The Exorcist II: The Heretic (well, save for either version of The Hills Have Eyes 2, maybe). A slapdash, unimaginative retread of the first film, it somehow thinks it a good idea to have Regan repossessed (the Leslie Nielsen version does it better), but sans the makeup, because Linda Blair didn't want to do that part of it again. You'll have heard how bad The Heretic is, but nothing can prepare for how shoddy it is. Not all of The Exorcist has aged well, but this sequel was laughable trash all the way back in 1977, when it was first released. There's some ironic amusement to be had in the rubbish special effects and Regan's unbelievable song and dance routine (!) but even if you're the sort of person who enjoys laughing at bad films, it's too dull to really get into. Like Richard Burton's pie-eyed performance, it's a depressing, embarrassing waste.
The only way is up, right? Well, at least if The Exorcist III is barely remembered at all (I only half-knew it existed), at least it isn't remembered for being bad. Thankfully, based on Blatty's novel (and directed by the author himself), it's rather good, wisely avoiding Regan in order to tell its own story. Good, unlike Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, which the box set blurb charitably describe as 'enriching' the original movie. Still, with The Exorcist so far in the rear view mirror by now – and The Heretic standing in the middle – it's hard to bear a grudge. At least these last two look pretty good, and have the sense not to simply redo the whole Regan thing all over again.
The Complete Anthology is far from essential viewing, then – not even for fans of The Exorcist – but it will serve as a nifty little collector's item for completists and the less easily enraged alike. With two bona fide good movies (three if you count both cuts of The Exorcist), two middling-to-bad and one utterly terrible, its batting average is pretty atrocious, but when it's good... well, it's The Exorcist.
Video and Audio:
The movies all look and sound fine, in crisp Blu-ray quality. No matter how many times you've heard it, Tubular Bells never fails to send a shiver down the spine.
A middling lot of extras, ranging from loads (both versions of The Exorcist) to none at all (The Exorcist III) to barely anything (The Beginning's handful of deleted scenes) – all (or none) of which you'll have seen before from previous releases. The discs themselves are housed in a flimsy cardboard case that looks okay but won't stand up to a great deal of wear and/or tear, let alone spilled pea soup.