It is almost impossible to imagine that a worthy sequel to 1973's The Exorcist could ever be made, but that hasn't stopped several filmmakers from trying. The original film—directed by William Friedkin from a screenplay by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the original novel—was more of a mood piece than a story. The demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl was less a conflict to be resolved than a hook on which to hang a thoughtful meditation on the tension between modern materialistic science and an ancient, even primitive, belief in a spiritual realm beyond this life. At a time when many were asking if God was dead, and if concepts such as goodness still had any meaning, Blatty and Friedkin hit audiences with a bold, shocking depiction of evil and dared them to say that this, too, was not meaningful. If there truly was such a thing as evil, then there truly must be such a thing as good, too; and if the Devil existed, then so did God.
Admittedly, The Exorcist had some elements which, if pressed too hard, would have taken the story in the direction of pure hokum. And press too hard is, alas, exactly what the sequels have done. John Boorman's Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), widely regarded as one of the dumbest movies ever made, tried to fill in all the gaps in the first film that were wisely left unfilled; among other things, it also abandoned the first film's realistic depiction of modern mechanized medicine in favor of tacky sci-fi elements such as a mind-reading device that consisted of a couple headbands, a few wires, and a pulsing light bulb. The Exorcist III (1990), directed by Blatty and based on his 1983 novel Legion, spun a serial-killer murder mystery in which possession was little more than a plot ...1
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Exorcist: The Beginning
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