Features and Columns · Movies

34 Things We Learned from ‘The Exorcist’ Commentary

By  · Published on August 30th, 2012

With Jeremy out of commission this week (possibly a victim of an diabolical ancient demon, or perhaps on vacation), I’m jumping in to highlight the commentary track on one of my favorite films.

For the most part nowadays, Hollywood stays out of religion. That is, of course, until it’s time to do a movie about demonic possession, and then the otherwise secular industry suddenly finds Jesus and starts spouting dogma like red-state Tea Party patriot at Chick-Fil-A. The gold standard of demonic possession movies is William Friedkin’s chilling masterpiece The Exorcist, which remains one of the scariest movies of all time. All demonic possession movies from 1973 on borrow (or outright steal) from it in some way.

This weekend, moviegoers will face demons once again in the cinemas, though The Possession taps into an older religion with a Dybbuk box from the Jewish faith. Still, odds are there are at least a few elements that owe a debt to the Catholic overtones in The Exorcist.

And on to the commentary…

The Exorcist (2000 Director’s Cut, originally released in 1973)

Commentators: William Friedkin (director)

Best in Commentary

Final Thoughts

While The Exorcist is one of my favorite movies of all time, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed by this commentary. There are some great tidbits in here, but too often Friedkin fell into the process of simply narrating what you see happening on the screen. Perhaps it was because he had already done a commentary track for the picture when it was originally released on DVD. That’s got more traditional trivia elements, such as how he came to use “Tubular Bells” in the soundtrack and how he juxtaposes symbols of good and evil during Chris MacNeil’s walk home from the set.

Still, when Friedkin digs deeper than the surface nature of his own film, things are pretty fascinating. He crams a lot of information into the first fifteen minutes of the film because there’s so much backstory to the footage in Iraq. He does get repetitive when it comes to the overall themes of the film, and he really throws down for Christianity in this commentary track. I don’t know what his personal religious beliefs are, but he definitely approaches this piece with a rock-hard pro-Catholic attitude.

There’s probably little need for any more commentary from Friedkin on this film, as he’s done two commentaries so far. Fortunately, though, the film never gets old for me to watch, with or without the director talking over it.

Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives

Related Topics: