In the kind of move not generally seen, ‘serious’ director Lee Daniels is taking a turn toward the horror genre. The helmer who last directed Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Paperboy and Precious will direct the fact-based film currently titled Demon House. The film is based on Latoya Ammons and her family, whose life rights made this film possible. They claim to have been victims of a demonic possession that has spanned over two years and counting. Ammons and her family have received international media attention for their accounts, which have been witnessed and documented by the Department of Child Services, the Gary (IN) Police Department and hospital staff.
The experience began with unusual occurrences in her home over two years ago, including swarms of flies around her porch in the winter and unexplainable creaking sounds in her basement. The events progressed to possessive incidents including her oldest daughter unconsciously levitating above her bed, medical staff witnessing her middle son gliding backward on the floor, wall and ceiling. According to Relativity, the DCS case manager witnessed her youngest son growling with his teeth showing and eyes rolled back, locking his hands around his older brother’s throat with no recollection of the incident. Initial psychological exams and exorcism attempts failed to provide explanation or solution for the bizarre events.
John Boorman (born 18 January 1933) is a British filmmaker who is a long time resident of Ireland and is best known for his feature films such as Point Blank, Deliverance, Zardoz, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory, The General and The Tailor of Panama.
Boorman first began by working as a dry cleaner and journalist in the late 1950s. He ran the newsrooms at Southern Television in Southampton and Dover before moving into TV documentary filmmaking, eventually becoming the head of the BBC’s Bristol-based Documentary Unit in 1962.
His feature debut was Catch Us If You Can (1965), about competing pop group Dave Clark Five, a rip-off of Richard Lester’s ‘A Hard Days Night’. Boorman was drawn to Hollywood for the opportunity to make larger-scale cinema and in Point Blank (1967), a gritty, powerful and brutal film, he brought a stranger’s vision to the decaying fortress of Alcatraz and the proto-hippy world of San Francisco. Lee Marvin gave the then-unknown director his full support, telling MGM he deferred all his approvals on the project to Boorman.
After Point Blank, Boorman re-teamed with Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune for Hell in the Pacific (1968), which tells a fable story of two representative soldiers stranded together on an island. Returning to the UK, he made Leo the Last (US/UK, 1970). The film won him a Best Director award at Cannes.
Boorman achieved much greater resonance with Deliverance (1972), the odyssey of city people played by Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty as they trespass into the Appalachian backwoods and discover their inner savagery. This film became Boorman’s first true box office success, earning him several award nominations. He followed with the cult film Zardoz (1973), starring Sean Connery, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi piece, set in the 24th century.
Boorman was selected as director for Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), but the resultant film was widely ridiculed and regarded by many as a failure. The film is set four years after The Exorcist, and centers on a now 16-year-old Regan McNeil who is still recovering from her previous demonic possession.
Exorcist writer/producer William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin both had no desire to involve themselves in an Exorcist sequel. According to the film’s co-producer Richard Lederer, Exorcist II was conceived as a relatively low-budget affair: “What we essentially wanted to do with the sequel was to redo the first movie… Have the central figure, an investigative priest, interview everyone involved with the exorcism, then fade out to unused footage, unused angles from the first movie. A low-budget rehash – about $3 million – of The Exorcist, a rather cynical approach to movie-making, I’ll admit. But that was the start.”
Playwright William Goodhart was commissioned to write the screenplay, titled The Heretic, and based it around the theories of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (the Jesuit paleontologist/archaeologist who inspired the character of Father Merrin when Blatty wrote The Exorcist). Boorman was unhappy with Goodhart’s script, and asked Goodhart to do a rewrite, incorporating ideas from Rospo Pallenberg. Goodhart refused, and so the script was rewritten by Pallenberg and Boorman. Goodhart’s script was being constantly rewritten as the film was shooting, with the filmmakers uncertain as to how the story should end. Actress Linda Blair recalls “It was a really good script at first. Then after everybody signed on they rewrote it five times and it ended up nothing like the same movie.”
British filmmaker Boorman signed on to direct, stating that “the idea of making a metaphysical thriller greatly appealed to my psyche.” Years before, Boorman had been considered by Warner Bros. as a possible director for the first Exorcist movie, but he turned the opportunity down as he found the story “rather repulsive.” Boorman, however, was intrigued with the idea of directing a sequel, explaining that “every film has to struggle to find a connection with its audience. Here I saw the chance to make an extremely ambitious film without having to spend the time developing this connection. I could make assumptions and then take the audience on a very adventurous cinematic journey.” He should have left it alone…
Boorman returned with Excalibur (1981), a retelling of the Arthurian legend. For the film he employed all of his children as actors and crew and several of Boorman’s later films have been ‘family business’ productions.
The Emerald Forest (1985) saw Boorman cast his actor son Charley Boorman as an eco-warrior, in a rainforest eco-adventure. Hope and Glory (1987, UK) is his most autobiographical movie to date, a retelling of his childhood in London during The Blitz. The film proved a Box Office hit in the US, receiving numerous Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. However his 1990 US produced comedy about a dysfunctional family, Where the Heart Is, was a major flop.
Boorman won the Best Director Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for The General, his black-and-white biopic of Martin Cahill. The film is about the somewhat glamorous, yet mysterious, criminal in Dublin who was killed, apparently by the IRA. Released in 2006, The Tiger’s Tail was a thriller set against the tableau of early 21st century capitalism in Ireland.
In 2004, Boorman was made a Fellow of BAFTA.
This ‘found-footage’ exorcism film surged for the normally slow post-holiday weekend. Paramount’s fledgling Insurge label’s The Devil Inside scored the biggest opening for the first weekend of a new year and the 3rd biggest January opening (behind Cloverfield and the Star Wars reissue). Even rival studios were saying hooray for the genre winner. But not without snark. “The industry starts out the year with a big number — and a people pleasing ‘F’ CinemaScore,” one rival studio exec snorted. But there’s no arguing that Paramount may have another Paranormal Activity mega-profit project in theaters this weekend. (FYI, Steven Schneider from the Paranormal Activity team is exec producer on this pic as well.) Insurge made a $1M acquisition of The Devil Inside and scored a big $34.5M opening weekend, including larger-than-average $2M midnights from 1,400 theaters; it’s rare for a studio to recoup its cost from just the midnight shows.
It’s the second film for Paramount’s low-budget Insurge label. And much like the studio’s Paranormal Activity franchise, the studio focused on marketing designed to trick audiences into believing this nonsense. So the campaign made the low production values The Devil Inside into the film that “The Vatican Doesn’t Want You To See”. It was a no-brainer for the studio to debut the trailer on October 21st with Paranormal Activity. The Halloween time period also proved key online, with viral scare videos and 911 calls pushed to fans.
Since the film was acquired for just $1m, Paramount also kept the marketing cheap, cheap, cheap. The TV ads kicked off during AMC’s The Walking Dead finale November 27th. Apparently there was a big ethnic push in the US market. The Hispanic campaign included English and Spanish language nets, wild posting, digital boards, and radio in the top 12 Hispanic markets. Branded horror programming roadblocks were placed on Sify, Chiller, AMC’s Fear Friday, and IFC Fright Night. Select targets for high-profile finales included Terra Nova and American Horror Story. And getting into the holiday spirit, the studio made a red band trailer as well as 10-sec scary radio spots to counter-program Christmas and New Year’s Eve across all 6 live network and cable late night shows covering festivities. (No wonder the heartland hates Hollywood…) ”The Devil Inside iPad and iPhone application served as another opportunity to scare unsuspecting fans,” an exec told Nikki Finke at Deadline. “The application is presented as a test to find out how possessed you are, that in turn surprises fans with a scare from the film. Since its launch in late December, the app continues to see 4-star rating on iTunes from a global user base.” As for the midnight shows, Paramount organized radio DJs, food trucks, and prize giveaways to make each screening seem special. Using Twitter as a tool, the studio on Friday morning sent out tweets about “an unexpected theater possession” where the film broke down and a contortionist from the film scared a packed theater of fans. The lengths to which Hollywood has to go to market horror these days… Smart marketing, not something you can say too often these days.
I was legally underage the first time I saw The Exorcist, so were my friends Keith and Gary. We saw it at an old porno cinema in Waterloo Street in Newcastle; they never asked your age… allegedly. I can’t remember the year but we were still at school. We were too young. It was a double bill; they always were at that cinema, 4 screens, 3 of which showed porn, the 4th always screened double bills of classic 70’s movies that we were too young to see… so we saw a lot of them often, Dirty Harry movies, Bruce Lee and horror flicks. This time we turned up to see The Exorcist and The Exorcist 2: The Heretic; an all time classic and an all time piece of shit.
We were excited and nervous, we knew the reputation that came with this film, we were prepared… or so we thought. Between us we’d seen a lot of horror films but most horror films scare you with ‘jumps’ and quick cuts… this thing got under your skin and picked at your nerve endings. It ramped up the tension, threw in those ‘jump’ scares and shredded your nerves completely right through until after the closing music has faded.
The film begins at an archaeological dig near Nineveh in Iraq, it’s here we’re introduced to Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), the titular Exorcist.
In Georgetown, actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) notices odd noises in the attic and more alarmingly, disturbing changes in her 12 year old daughter Regan (Linda Blair). After Regan suffers through a series of medical tests, Chris takes her to see a psychiatrist whom Regan assaults. As a last resort Chris enlists the help of Father Karras (Jason Miller); a conflicted priest, he agrees to talk to Regan but doubts that she needs an exorcism.
You know the drill by now, shaking beds, blasphemy, levitation and physical assault on those around her as well as on Regan’s own body.
After a further visit Karras listens to some recordings he made of Regan, she is speaking in dead languages and backwards English. She taunts him about his sick mother. Karras agrees to ask for an exorcism to be performed. The church sends Father Merrin, an experienced exorcist, he has unfinished business with this demon…
I’d never seen anything like it at the time and no matter how many horror films I’ve seen since, not one of them has given me the sense of dread and emotional battering that The Exorcist did. And yes, that is a good thing.
There are excellent performances from everyone involved, a great script from an equally terrifying novel and awe inspiring visual and audio effects. This is an incredibly well directed movie by William Friedkin at the peak of his powers, a career defining film.
I’ve seen the film many times since that day in the musty, dark porno theatre; on video in the eighties, before and after it was ludicrously removed from video shops due to its placement on the ‘video nasties’ list. I also saw it on its ‘The version you’ve never seen before’ rerelease at the cinema; I own that version and the original cut on DVD, as well as the anthology box set (I‘m a completist tragic)… and EVERY time I watch it I get that same sense of fear and excitement I had back in Waterloo Street over 30 years ago. I prefer the original cut, the addition of the ‘spider walk’ scene to the rerelease adds little apart from it being a cool shot.
Every time I see the film I see something new in it, every time I see it, it’s different but the same. It’s intelligent, emotional, visceral and peerless. I’ve seen a lot of top ten, top fifty or top hundred lists for horror films, everyone is entitled to their opinion… but any of them that don’t have this at number 1 are full of shit. It’s THE greatest horror film EVER, there really is no competition.
Quality: 5 stars
Is it fun, God no, but is it good: 5 stars
There will be a review of the DVD anthology of The Exorcist, the sequels and both prequels soon.
So apparently a deal has been struck to produce an updated version for today’s audience’ of The Exorcist. It will be produced by Morgan Creek and distributed by Warner Brothers. The decision seems to be based on the recent success of films such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Paranormal Activity and The Last Exorcism. God help us all… Exorcist review/reminiscence tomorrow…