I lost it when the demon face was on the range hood

There are some things you just shouldn't screw around with.  Coke, for example.  (note: I'm referring to Coca-Cola, not the white powder certain friends of mine used to cut with Bisquick and sell to various idiots around a certain area)

Coca-Cola really did used to be The Real Thing.  It was crisp and cold and invigorating.  I remember picking citrus at my grandparents' house, then going inside for an ice-cold Coke.  The bubbles felt sharp going down.  It was awesome.  Then came New Coke.  What the Ford C Frick were these geniuses thinking? New Coke was horrible.  Very unlike The Real Thing–it was The Bogus Thing, if you will.  It was sweeter and gooier than Pepsi, even.  Blech.  After awhile, they (re?)introduced Coca-Cola Classic.  It was closer to The Real Thing, but not quite.  People didn't notice, because their tastebuds had been ruined by New Coke.  It's not the same: it's now made with high fructose corn sweetener, which gives it a more syrupy, gooier consistency.  I'm sure it's cheaper to make, but it lacks the soul of the original.  (I drink diet sodas or water, better yet, but if I want a Coke, dammit I want a COKE!)

I say this because I just watched one of my all-time favorite movies: The Exorcist.  Back in college, there were a few films I ended up studying in extreme depth: Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Exorcist.  I love all three of them, but if I never see HAL and the gang again, it will be too soon.  I still like watching Kane every year or two, but my favorite of the three is The Exorcist.  There are few better examples of pure filmmaking around.  From the sound to the shot framing, to the subliminal images, it's just spectacularly crafted. 

And it's one of the few movies that genuinely scared me.  I've never been afraid of monsters–excluding politicians and reality show contestants–but demonic posession stuff? That'll give me chills. If it's well done, anyway.  If it's stupid (Exorcist II: The Heretic, I mean you), the films just come off as stupid. 

The first time I saw The Exorcist, it was on our local PBS station back when I was in high school.  Of course, it was an expurgated version, but still, I was captivated.  During one of the suspenseful parts, our cat–the late, legendary Mr Palmer–jumped up on the back of my chair.  Holy CRAP! I jumped out of my chair so forcefully, that I stuck my hand in the ceiling fan. 

Anyway, I still look at The Exorcist as a near-perfect film.  So, this being Halloween and all, I decided to rent it.  I found it in the iTunes store, clicked the widget, and it downloaded to my computer.  I was set! It's a pleasantly cool night here in Gomorrah.  I had Father Wind (armed with his holy water dipped paw) beside me, and Ana-Sofia Vargas patrolling the rest of the cave.  If Pazuzu or any other demon were to attempt shenanigans, I'd be protected.  Hell, Wind was even baptized! Ann Marie took him to the blessing of the animals at St Francis' Church in Boston when he was a kitten.

I digress.

So I was sprawled out, cat-protected, with a bowl of Ben & Jerry's "Willie Nelson's Peach Cobbler" ice cream, and I clicked Play.  It was…

It was different.  I've seen this movie so many times, I know it inside and out: the dialog, the edits, the sound effects, everything.  But this wasn't The Exorcist I remember: it was "The Exorcist: 2000 Version." WTF?

In fairness, I'd seen the 2000 version before, but it was during a period where, um, I don't really remember things well.  It started out correctly, then I noticed entire scenes that weren't in the original.  Roger Ebert wrote a poignant review of EX2000, so I won't go into all the details, but what struck me was how the film's rhythm was compromised.  There were a few subliminal film effects in the 1973 version that boosted the audience's terror.  In 2000, there were many more, and they weren't scary and shocking, but inane and distracting: the death-mask face flashed on a kitchen appliance, for God's sake, and there was a ridiculous bat-signal-esque flash of the Pazuzu statue on a bedroom door.  I concede that some of the extra scenes–the medical ones–actually improved the film a bit, fleshing out things left unexplained in the original. 

Then came the ending.  Holy crap, what a disaster.  It went from having a perfect, tidy resolution to including a stupid coda, sort of like if The Shining had ended with Shelly Duvall and that creepy kid having hot chocolate at Howard Johnson's. 

Why? Why mess with it? I guess it was for money.  Supposedly, producer/author William Peter Blatty wanted the 2000 version, even though director William Friedkin was happier with his 1973 edit.

Editing is difficult, especially when you really love what you've created.  When I was production director at U-92, one of our morning jocks put together a patriotic montage for Memorial Day.  It was good–lots of interesting sound bites, music, etc–but it was over eight minutes long.  When you're working in an Oldies format–with three-minute songs–eight minutes can be an eternity, no matter how good the material is.  Our program director commanded me to cut it down to four minutes or less.  The guy who created it was pissed, needless to say.  He was afraid his pet project would be ruined.  It wasn't.  The Tom edit ended up being 3:58, and it flowed.  There was a rhythm the original had lacked.  Almost all of the bits in the original were still there, just shortened and tightened.  The things I cut out? They were unnecessary.

Same in the 1973 version of The Exorcist.  It was a jewel, a shimmering diamond solitaire.  The 2000 version was still a great film.  It's just that that shimmering diamond had been reset, surrounded by unneeded garnets and peridots. 

And probably soaked in high-fructose corn sweetener. 

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21 Responses to “I lost it when the demon face was on the range hood”

  1. Fuck, that was well said. I've seen enough modern remakes (about two) to know to keep way away from them. But I would have thought that a modern edit could at least have a better chance.
    Mind if I borrow that last sentence? I think it needs to join my personal phrasebook for all things base, cheap, and worse than the original.

  2. I totally hear you. I don't like the new version either–the only good thing about it is the spider-walking scene, although it's not worth owning the DVD for. I heard that the reason for the new ending is that it's to reassure people that good won and that all is right with the world. (I am paraphrasing.)
    Except, really, why do people need to be reassured? It's more like The Devil's Advocate, I think–good won nothing; evil will just come at you a different way.
    I really love (and am freaked out by) religious-themed horror movies, too. The Exorcist (which I do not, ever, watch at night), Rosemary's Baby, The Omen…
    Oh, good times. πŸ™‚

  3. I can tolerate diet coke…just..and pepsi BARF! I saw TE when I was 8 months pregnant in an old cinema in Wakefield with 2 other girls. (scaredy pussy girls, all 3 of us) This turned out to be one of my first questionable parenting choices. The film got to me more than I expected (Id read the book) and after the show we had a half hour walk at midnight back to my friends house. NOt good. Not good at all. I dont FDO walking, heh. I can't watch proper scary films. Having lived alone aside from my children for the majority of my adult life I have learnt that scaring myself silly and having no one to talk me round or provide reassurance is baaaaaaaad. TE is profoundly horrifying to me so I wont be watching the 2000 edit. Did you really stick your hand into a ceiling fan? People jumping with fright is hilarious..once again the image of you jumping out of your skin (as in the post set in the jungle/swamp with the swamp creature) had me howling and will keep a smile on my face for the rest of the day!n Thanks lovely πŸ™‚

  4. Your writing flows, tom. I eagerly read it from top to bottom. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  5. Mind if I borrow that last sentence? I think it needs to join my
    personal phrasebook for all things base, cheap, and worse than the
    original.You may. I just wish for you more awesome subjects like Autumn's End, and as little high fructose corn sweetener as possible. (I love that photo, btw. Just gorgeous. I linked to it so anyone else could see what I meant)

  6. I thought the original ending was perfect. Regan didn't remember any of it; she has no religious beliefs (per her mother's discussion with the docs at the clinic); yet she feels compelled to kiss a priest she's meeting for the first time? That was all the reassurance I needed. You're absolutely right: if the evil hit an innocent little girl, it can hit anyone, and God only knows the carnage. The spider walk scene was creepy, but I'm not convinced it adds anything to the film. It's sort of just sui generis, not really tied to a scene. I think we're on the same page: The Omen, et al, scare me more than any stupid monster movies.

  7. Now you're making me want to watch it again and I'm at work until 4. That means I'll be watching it dangerously close to darkness. No thanks. πŸ™‚

  8. I eagerly read it from top to bottom.As long as you do so without projectile vomiting after, life is good. πŸ˜‰ (The puke was Anderson's Pea Soup, btw. The techs didn't like the color and consistency of Campbell's.)

  9. I did jump, and I did stick my hand in the ceiling fan. Whether they happened at the same time? I can't be sure, but that's how my swiss-cheese like brain remembers it. As far as scary movies and demons, I'm sure Cath would protect you; who would protect you from Sylvie and Roo, though, remains to be seen. πŸ˜‰

  10. Oh, come on, Kelly: Sam would be there with you. I'm sure he'd bark and chase Pazuzu away. πŸ˜‰

  11. Sam would think nothing of trading my soul for a Beggin Strip.

  12. Why mess with perfection? It does annoy when that happens. Not that I want to claim Star Wars was perfection, but for me and the whole nostalgia thing, it was… and when they messed with it and fixed the subtitles and took out the graininess, it just lost its appeal. I guess that happens with all movies we love that they go and mess with… shame on them! :oDI saw just the other day that they filmed the Exorcist bedroom scenes in a giant freezer.. dedication to the art or what?!

  13. lolBad Sam! Protect your hooman's soul! πŸ™‚

  14. Hey, at least they quit colorizing old black & white films. That was the most horrid thing ever–Bogie in Casablanca looked like he was wearing rouge. I read on IMDB about the Exorcist. It was so cold on the set once that they came in to shoot one day, and there was a layer of snow. I used to feel especially bad for Max von Sydow, who played the older priest. Turns out, he was only 44 when they filmed it. It was amazing makeup.

  15. Well… some things are best left to memories… Coke Zero tastes like… cough medicine… it's really… zero… hmm…

  16. I really think they need to just get it over with and put the Coke back in Coke.Hold the Bisquick.

  17. And yet the Bisquick made it rock up so nicely. So I was told, anyway.I'd pay twice as much for Coke (ref: "a-Cola", not "-aine") if they made it the old way. Stupid corn sweetener.

  18. Hey, I liked the old pre-NutraSweet Fresca, so you don't have to tell me. πŸ™‚

  19. look for kosher/pareve Coca-Cola around Passover and stock-up. apparently, HFCS ain't kosher.or check around Mexican grocery stores. Mexican Coca-Cola is made with cane sugar.

  20. okay… i didn't know that there was a 2000 edit of the exorcist. also, i never watched the original. because i'm a big, fat scaredy cat. hehe.

  21. Ah sweet! Thanks mariser. πŸ˜€ Just say "No" to HFCS!

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