The Exorcist (1973) is still one of the scariest horror films of all time, with many fans still unable to watch the story of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) from beginning to end. But now it seems this terrifying story is going to be toned down for television. It won’t just be adapted for television viewers, but will also be rewritten as a serialized series that will revolve around two men (no word on whether or not they will even be men of the cloth) aiding a family experiencing demonic possession.
For The Exorcist, the devil is in the details
The modernized reboot will be an adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel, The Exorcist, which was published in 1971 by Harper & Row, though the 1973 film’s screenplay was also written by the author. The series will be comprised of one-hour long episodes to be written by Jeremy Slater, who has limited experience with The Lazarus Effect (2015) and the Fantastic Four reboot. Slater will also join James Robinson and David Robinson as executive producers on the project for 20th Century Fox Television in association with Morgan Creek Productions.
It doesn’t take a genius to see a recipe for disaster in these specifics, even if it is early in the pre-production stages. An inexperienced writer being asked to create a reboot for The Exorcist seems to be 2oth Century Fox’s way of dooming the project before it has even begun. Aside from bringing virtual unknowns to the project, creating a made for television reboot of The Exorcist will require eliminating all of the aspects that continues to make the film such a huge success. It cannot be scary, while also being suitable for television.
While the studio has yet to choose a director, or directors, as the case may be, and a premiere date is still a long way off, it seems unlikely that even the most skilled director can make a television-based reboot of The Exorcist as thrilling and as dramatically compelling as the full-length feature film.
What will a made for television reboot mean for The Exorcist?
William Peter Blatty wrote The Exorcist, based upon a 1949 case of demonic possession that he learned about while attending Georgetown University in 1950. The book was re-published on its 40th anniversary in 2011. Mr. Blatty made some changes to the manuscript, prior to that reprinting, but the overall story remained untouched.
Based on that 1971 version, the film adaptation of The Exorcist frightened fans and thrilled critics so much that it was nominated for a total of 10 Oscars, winning two. The Exorcist also won four Golden Globe awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Supporting Actress – Linda Blair, Best Screenplay – William Peter Blatty, Best Director – William Friedkin.
Recreating the success and love for Blatty’s story in a reboot would require the ability to create a story of demonic possession unhindered by content restraints. Worthy of note, the unedited version of the 1973 film earned an X rating.
To present this story to television audiences will be a disaster, particularly after complaints have already been filed against FOX and FX for shows like American Horror Story and Scream Queens.
Maybe the scene in which Regan diddles herself with a crucifix will be omitted. Understandable. And the scene where Regan slaps her mother? That will have to go, as well. The spiderwalk with blood foaming from Regan’s mouth? Out. Cursing at the doctor is out as well.
On the bright side, they might just keep the scene in which the unnamed demon scrawls messages on Regan’s belly.
Other than that, we have little to look forward to, other than a drama about two men trying to keep child services from paying a visit to a dysfunctional family.
With a little luck, The Exorcist may last a little longer than FOX’s other film-to-television adaptation, Minority Report. It might even make it through a full season.
[Featured image by Warner Bros.]