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Reawakened Horror

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*The Exorcist (R)
Warner Bros.

On the day after Christmas in 1973, Oscar-winning director William Friedkin followed up his tremendous 1971 success, The French Connection, with the most daring horror film ever made -- an adaptation of William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist.

This classically compelling American Gothic legend set up a physical and religious battle between good and evil over the possessed body of a young girl, Regan MacNeil, whose possessed entity was -- and is -- the closest vision of sheer evil to ever appear in cinema.

Given the numerous and terrible episodes of head-twisting, levitating, and bile vomiting in the original film, audiences could hardly have guessed that Friedkin had already cut out 11 minutes of what he considered "excess" footage to bring the film in under two hours. William Blatty was furious over the cuts, however, believing that the movie had lost its moral center, and was upset that audiences might think that the demon had won in the end.

Friedkin finally agreed to reexamine the missing scenes 25 years later and became inspired to rework much of the material back into the film.

Significant is an added conversation between the two exorcists in which Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) explains to Father Karras (Jason Miller) the reason that this demon has chosen to consume the young girl -- to rattle the faith of those around her. Regan is not the target of the evil, but merely the most effective device the demon can use to achieve its goal.

Overall, the newly restored scenes give the audience a much clearer understanding of Regan's possession and assign a stronger empathy with Father Karras as the film's protagonist. Though the supernatural incidents are resolved in the closing scenes of the movie, The Exorcist promises to haunt viewers with troubling images of evil.

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