Every so often, a film is produced that transcends the screen in a way that cements its narrative in popular culture, building a mythos far beyond its initial concept. The 1973 terrifying and unforgettable classic The Exorcist falls into this category.
Following a first glimpse at Fox's TV series, which is based upon the film, now is as good a time as ever to dip our toes into the paranormal. The show will be hoping to replicate the eerie nature of the movie's themes, but one thing it won't want to duplicate will be the so-called Exorcist curse, a term deriving from a collection of disturbing events that surrounded the filming of the original.
A Curse? Or Just Bad Luck?
The horror genre is admittedly drenched with tales of true events and bizarre coincidences, used often to build a reputation for the source material. Yet the story surrounding The Exorcist is different. During the more than 200 days of filming, which ran from August 1972, a series of unfortunate events occurred that would leave even the biggest of skeptics scratching their heads.
The filming was plagued by accidents, with the leading stars the victims of unfortunate injuries. Indeed, Ellen Burstyn, who played the mother Chris MacNeil, picked up a permanent back injury when a harness used to throw her to the floor failed.
Disturbingly, this happened during the infamous crucifix masturbation scene (above), when her character was thrown to the floor by a possessed Regan. In an interview with Huffington Post, Burstyn reflected on the incident:
“When she knocks me on the floor, I landed on my back and [director William Friedkin] said, ‘Cut, take two.’ And I said, ‘Billy, he’s pulling me too hard,’ because I had a wire pulling me to the floor.
"Billy said, ‘Well it has to look real.’ And I said, ‘I know it has to look real, but I’m telling you, I could get hurt.’ And so he said, ‘OK, don’t pull her so hard. But then I’m not sure that he didn’t cancel that behind my back because the guy smashed me into the floor.”
Linda Blair, who played possessed 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, was also injured. To make things look as authentic as possible, she was harnessed to the bed, but when the rigging broke, she too hurt her back.
A Series Of Deaths
The cast members were also inexplicably linked with death during filming. Jack MacGowran, who played Burke Dennings, and Vasiliki Maliaros, who played Father Karras's mother, both died when the film was in post-production. Linda Blair's grandfather and Max von Sydow's brother both died during filming. The son of Jason Miller was also nearly killed when a motorcycle hit him.
And 14 years after the film's release, Mercedes McCambridge, who was the demonic voice of Pazuzu, was also caught in tragedy when her son was involved in the murder-suicide of his wife and children.
But, perhaps the most disturbing of all, filming was delayed when a fire broke out, started by a pigeon that had nested in a circuit box. Most of the structure of the house where the film is set was destroyed, but Regan's room remained untouched.
The Exorcist TV series will premiere on Fox in November.
Do you believe that The Exorcist set was cursed?