45 Years after ‘The Exorcist’ William Friedkin Captures Real Evil On Screen

Friedkin's new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth challenges our modern concepts of evil.
The Devil And Father Amorth

Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth challenges our modern concepts of evil.

What is the nature of evil? Is man its origin, or is the Devil to blame? William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist and several other classic Hollywood endeavors, claims to have finally captured the truly demonic on screen. No actors. No makeup effects or CGI. His new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth goes behind Vatican doors to expose the reality of wickedness.

Friedkin states at the start of the new trailer, “This is not fiction.” Do we dare to believe him? Can we afford not to?

I’m not sure how to feel about that. Creeped out. Weirded out. Certainly icky. A combination of the three.

The Exorcist is one of my all-time favorite films. It’s absolutely terrifying, strategically crafted to burrow under your skin, and leaves you contemplating your susceptibility for the supernatural. I’ve never experienced anything remotely like the horror inflicted upon young Regan, and I’ve never been convinced that such things are even possible. When I’m watching Friedkin’s film, however, The Devil feels real.

That’s the magic of the movies. In 1973, a bunch of people were lured in by Friedkin and author William Peter Blatty’s docudrama terror. In a lot of ways, the blockbuster phenomenon started with The Exorcist. One taste was not enough, and folks returned for seconds, thirds, and fourths. Friedkin cracked opened the door for Steven Spielberg, and Jaws kicked it down, obliterating the old business model and erecting the tentpole storytelling method we enjoy/fear today.

The Exorcist was just a film, though. The credits rolled, the lights went up, and we went on with our lives. Maybe you lived a straighter path, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you squeaked an extra prayer in before bed. As Friedkin states in the trailer above though, he had never really experienced anything truly evil before, during, or after making The Exorcist.

Not anymore.

The Devil and Father Amorth is not just a movie. Or at least Friedkin doesn’t want you to think so. What the director claims to have caught on tape on May 1, 2016, is the real deal. A demonic encounter, and it’s “different from all the movies.” No head spinning? No pea soup? Part of that gives me the shivers, while another part cries out b.s.

The film’s tagline doesn’t exactly promise that Friedkin inserts any skepticism into his journey, but it does imply some conversation from varying points of view. “Beyond Faith, Beyond Science, Lies the Truth.” Friedkin combines footage from the actual exorcism of Cristina (a pseudonym to protect the innocent) with interviews with psychologists, neurosurgeons, and non-believers. This film began as a conversation between two admirers and eventually resulted in Father Gabrielle Amorth inviting Friedkin behind closed doors.

That almost sounds like a dare. Don’t believe me? Well, bring your cameras along. Naturally, Friedkin’s curiosity was stoked, and I can’t help but feel the same draw. I want to see it. I want to test myself. I want to challenge my doubt. Do I want to believe? Hmmmm…I’m still working that all out. Maybe this documentary can help me with that.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)