The Exorcism of Martha Marcy May Marlene

Yesterday I found out The Exorcist was being remade. Yawn. Typical Hollywood… no originality, blah, lazy, blah, blah. But then I read, “Into a 10 hour mini series.” Interesting… Obviously, who ever makes this is going to have to do something different, but still, The Exorcist is considered one of the scariest films of all time. What’s the point? It’s probably just going to be produced by Michael Bay (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or something… Oh, Sean Durkin, the first time director of last years brilliant and unnerving Martha Marcy May Marlene is writing and possibly directing this? And he wants to spend the extra time concentrating on Reagan’s family life before and after the possession (stuff the film could only hint at)? Ok, now I’m intrigued.

First of all, lets quickly discuss the original film. When I was a kid I really got into horror films. I loved Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th. You know, 80s slasher films. Nothing that scary, just kind of fun. But I was always too scared to watch The Exorcist. A friend of my mom always told me, “The Exorcist is the scariest film of all time. You can’t watch it.” As he said this he’d wave the VHS in my face, taunting me. Once in a while he’d show me glimpses. I was always terrified. I finally tried to watch the film, and was overcome with boredom before any of the scary stuff happened. I was a young kid. It was very early in my cinematic evolution. I definitely wasn’t ready for a film like that. Did I ever actually watch the whole film? I honestly don’t know, but I have spent my whole adult life being told, “It’s brilliant, a capital M – Masterpiece.” All this remake news inspired me to finally rewatch/watch the film.

Let’s get this out of the way. The Exorcist is a masterpiece, and definitely one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. It may not be as visceral and terrifying as something like [REC]  but emotionally draining and numbing ([REC] is probably the only film that’s truly made me jump out of my skin with genuine, earned scares). The Exorcist shakes you to your core. It grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go. I just finished the film and I’m still physically affected. My hands are slightly shaking. The slow burn that put me to sleep as a child works perfectly here. This is a real film. It’s not just throwing scares at you every few minutes. It takes its time with the characters, and we care about them (something that hardly ever happens in horror films). When Reagan urintaes on the floor the film never looks back. It’s hard to watch. The spinal tap scene before the real possession stuff is truly disturbing, and had me covering my eyes.

So this begs the question? Should The Exorcist be remade? It’s a tough question. Typically, as film nerds, it’s our job to rally against Hollywood’s never ending barrage of remakes, sequels, and prequels. And I’m usually right there, on the front lines. I was insanely critical about the Let the Right One In remake. I finally saw Let Me In and hated it with all my passion, but I am behind this remake (and even some others). For me, it all comes down to who’s involved, their passion for the project, and how they’re going to make it personal. In most situation these questions are irrelevant because it’s all about the dollar signs, but there are those rare occasions where something special can happen. I truly believe this is one of the situations because of Sean Durkin.

It may not say so on my Top 15 Films of 2011 list, but Martha Marcy May Marlene was my favorite film of 2011. It was the scariest film of the year, and moves at a methodical pace as the dread builds and ties knots in the pit of your stomach until the brilliant final shot. I personally think Sean Durkin is the perfect person to take on The Exorcist. He has an incredible handle on creating unnerving tension during every day moments. Since he wants to concentrate on the events leading to the possession and the potential PTSD after the exorcism these skills will be incredibly important. Also, the fact that he wants to concentrate on these moments tells me he’s coming at the material from his own perspective, making it personal. I imagine a series where these moments are just as intense as the exorcism (if not more).

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