The Power Of THE EXORCIST Compelled Them, RIP Ennio Morricone And MORE
In this Issue:
- Horror History: The Power Of The Exorcist Compelled Them
- Image of the Week: RIP Ennio Morricone
- Tiny Bites – This Week’s Best Horror Headlines
- Things We Love: Sadism Never Looked So Cute
- Hey, That’s Us! – Shudder in the News
The Power Of The Exorcist Compelled Them
Throughout the 1970s, the horror genre was flooded with Exorcist knockoffs, most of them genuinely better than The Exorcist II. None of them had the same impact, of course, as they often focused on the more extreme elements (Green vomit! Foul-mouthed children!) instead of the character-driven drama and exploration of faith that Williams Friedkin and Blatty brought to the table, but it was always clear that Regan MacNeil was on the minds of these hopeful producers. However, a trend usually doesn’t really kick off until a second success proves that the first wasn’t a fluke, and in this instance, the first copy had a big head start.
As the story goes, producer Ovidio Assonitis read Blatty’s novel on a plane and tried to get the rights for an adaptation, only to discover they had already been taken by Warner Bros. Not wanting to completely abandon his dream, Assonitis hired a few writers to knock out a script that had some similarities (possession, namely) and make his own unrelated version, named Beyond The Door.
He may have been inspired by the original book, but it’s clear that the resulting film played an influence on his own take; the unexplained omnipresence of pea soup (a child drinks it straight from the can throughout the film) is clearly a very strange tip of the hat to Regan’s chosen form of vomit, and Dick Smith’s makeup for Linda Blair was more or less replicated on the face of Door star Juliet Mills, who spins her head around 180 degrees for good measure. But it’s not the usual case of seeing a film make a lot of money and decide then to rip it off — he was already developing his version before anyone knew The Exorcist would be a success. In fact, his film ended up premiering only a few weeks after Friedkin’s masterpiece arrived in Italy, so he was pretty much done by the time he could be assured Italian audiences would be interested in a possession flick in the first place.
Ultimately, Warner sued Assonitis for infringing on their “visual copyright”, but that didn’t stop anyone else (including rival American studios) from mounting their own wannabe efforts.
The international success of Beyond the Door proved that audiences didn’t need the relative big budget and classiness of Friedkin’s masterpiece to line up for such fare at the box office, and the two films’ very different storylines meant that there was precedent to mix up the “formula” as much as producers wanted (i.e. they’d rip off Rosemary’s Baby, too). It was a true craze for a chunk of the 1970s; some films, such as Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil, even got re-edited/retitled to include Exorcist-type scenes that often had little to do with the narrative.
Eventually, Jaws ripoffs (including one from, you guessed it, Ovidio Assonitis) took precedence and the fad died out. The majority of the films are enjoyable enough to warrant a look, and they all owe a chunk of their existence to Assonitis proving, in a way, that lightning could strike twice.
*Brian W. Collins is a writer for Birth.Movies.Death., Fangoria, and the author of Horror Movie A Day. He owns multiple copies of Bat Out Of Hell on vinyl despite having no turntable and will defend Jason Takes Manhattan until his dying day.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
RIP Ennio Morricone
The film industry lost a legend today as Ennio Morricone passed away at 91 years old. Best known for his work on Westerns, the prolific maestro had over 500 titles to his name in every genre, defying the notion that he had a specialty. He provided the memorable scores for such horror movies as The Exorcist II, Night Train Murders, Cat O’ Nine Tails, Orca, and The Thing.
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CLIVE BARKER, HORROR MASKS AND MORE
Men’s Health ranked what they think are 21 of the best horror movies of all time, and they started with 28 Days Later.
Empire ranked their picks for the best movies of 2020 (so far) and included horror gems like The Invisible Man, The Lighthouse, and The Vast Of Night.
Ben Dreyfuss, son of Richard Dreyfuss, tweeted a brilliant thread suggesting an alternate cause of death for Ben Gardner in JAWS.
BuzzFeed has 13 behind-the-scenes factoids for you about some of your favorite horror movies including the almost-horror movie, E.T.
Fans of Midsommar can look forward to a 62-page book full of gorgeous ritualistic artwork and a forward by Martin Scorsese.
Add some campy fun to your weekly watchlist with these “guilty pleasure” horror movies and franchises.
Still apprehensive about wearing a mask? Let Chantal Laura Handley’s hand-painted beauties with legendary horror icons sway you. (Seriously, wear a mask!)
This in-depth interview with Clive Barker should shed some light on anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the horror master.
Add some gothic literature to your reading list with these three highly-recommended titles.
The Evil Dead is going on the road as the classic horror film plans to hit more drive-in theatres across the US.
THINGS WE LOVE
Sadism Never Looked So Cute
Whether or not you’re a Hellraiser fan, we dare you not to swoon over this adorable baby Pinhead enamel pin from Horror Babies.