The Exorcist has not fared all too well in the franchise business, with four movies made in its wake—three of them outright disasters and only one of them (The Exorcist III) considered worthy of the name. A short-lived TV series also got high marks, but was cancelled after two little-seen seasons.
Green intends to make a direct sequel to the first film, again apparently ignoring all the films that came out since then, in which Leslie Odom Jr. will play a father whose child has been possessed by a demon, leading Odom Jr. to turn to Ellen Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil for help. Burstyn has already been signed on to reprise her role, although to date Linda Blair—who played MacNeil’s possessed child Regan in the original—is not involved. At least we can be assured that Green isn’t attempting a remake, which had been long speculated. But endeavoring to recapture the terrifying brilliance of The Exorcist is a tall order, nonetheless.
This reboot of Clive Barker’s signature tale (the original novella, The Hellbound Heart, was first published in 1986) is already in production and perhaps not a moment too soon—or maybe a few decades too late. Following the generally well-received original film in 1988 (which Barker adapted and directed himself) and a fairly impressive sequel (1988’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II), the franchise descended into a seemingly endless stream of dreck with six of its nine sequels going direct-to-video and at least two of them seemingly made just to keep the rights to the brand.
A straight remake has been mooted for years, with Barker himself involved at one point or another, and a Hellraiser TV show was announced by HBO in 2020, although little has been heard from it since. At the same time, a reboot film was unveiled by Miramax and Hulu, with David Bruckner (this year’s excellent The Night House) directing, David S. Goyer (Foundation) onboard as a writer and producer, and Barker involved as well. Goyer recently stated that the film is going “back to the source,” meaning Barker’s original novella, with Jamie Clayton (Sense8) cast as the “Hell Priest” (aka Pinhead). It remains to be seen whether there is enough interest to launch a whole new series of films.
Richard Donner’s fourth film and major breakthrough as a director (it landed him the gig directing Superman) was also one of the most successful “Satanic” horror films to follow in the wake of The Exorcist, while also capitalizing on the “end times” hysteria driven by books like Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth. Sadly, the succeeding sequels to Donner’s excellent thriller failed to live up to their own, uh, prophecies.
Damien: Omen II (1978) offered up nearly a dozen creative death scenes but little else as the Antichrist entered puberty, but The Final Conflict (1981), with Sam Neill as an adult Damien, didn’t even show us the long-awaited title bout between the son of Satan and a reborn Jesus Christ. An unwatchable fourth film (produced as a TV movie), a lifeless 2006 remake of the original, and an already-forgotten 2016 TV series didn’t do Junior any favors either. With the proper budgets and talent, however, a new series of sequels could perhaps effectively visualize Damien’s rise to power, the Rapture and the apocalyptic battle with Christ. Think about it, in the current political climate wouldn’t a new direct sequel to The Omen about a middle-aged American demagogue rising to apocalyptic power be the stuff of nightmares?