The point is, thinking about the Halloween remake got me thinking about remakes in general. I think we can all agree, they're mostly a good idea, right? I mean, the Dawn of the Dead remake was boring, but look at remakes like Black Xmas and The Fog (are they remakes or reimaginings? I get so confused! LOL)- they really added something to the story that the originals lacked, ie a big backstory for the "bad guys". In the original Black Christmas, we don't know why Billy kills the girls in the house, and that's stupid and makes no sense. Everybody kills for a reason, hello! But in the remake, we learn that he kills because his skin is yellow and so the story is a little more...I guess, meaty or something. And in The Fog, well, finally the tale of the ghostly lepers has a proper ending. In John Carpenter's version, the ghosts and the fog just sort of disappear and it's like "Huh?", but in the remake, you find out that the Jamie Lee Curtis character is an ancestor of the lepers or something and when she becomes a ghost at the end it's romantic and you know that the ghosts are all going to go have fun on ghost island or in their ghost condos or whatever, and the two main ghosts will have ghost babies or whatever. It's better than them just disappearing like that!
I've only given you two examples here of how films can be improved when they're remade, and I'm glad to see there are many more remakes of terrible films on the horizon, such as Alice, Sweet Alice, April Fool's Day, and The Changeling. One movie I think could use a remake (or a re-imagining, LOL) and an updating, though, is William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973). Yeah, there have been the prequels, but come on. The Exorcist is almost 40 years old! It's time to bring the story into the 21st century with better actors and better special effects. I've given this idea a lot of thought, and here are my suggestions for the remake- Hollywood, get out your pencils and take notes! I don't care if Hollywood steals my ideas; I just want to see a better version of The Exorcist in theatres.
Let's start with the actors, addressing the weakest link first. Yes, I'm talking about Ellen Burstyn. She's always been one of my least favorite actresses in general; she might be pretty, but she can't act worth beans...and really, every time she's on screen The Exorcist grinds to a halt. The movie is just as much about Chris McNeil as it is about Regan McNeil, and to make the film work you just plain need a strong actor as Chris. Now, there's a reason why Julia Roberts won an Oscar for Erin Brockovich, beating out fellow nominee- guess who?- yup, Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream. That reason is, Julia Roberts is simply a better actor. Granted, I might be a little biased- lord knows I'd love to see Julia Roberts in every film is it was possible- but I think the Oscar connection is too big to ignore...I'd cast Julia Roberts as Chris McNeil.
The part of Regan, the girl possessed, is a little tougher to cast, I'll admit. But who says Regan has to be, like, 12? Can't she be older? I think maybe if she was supposed to be in her late teens, that would work just as well. People think that The Exorcist is, like, symbolic of Regan's budding sexuality, ok, sure. If we make her older, though, then the 'possession' could be a metaphor for teen pregnancy, which in case you didn't know is a real problem these days. Sometimes I shake my head and mutter "Babies having babies..." in a way that indicates my sad disdain- obviously, it's a hot button topic. So. Who can teens relate to? Who is not much more than a teen herself? I think Hilary Duff would make a great Regan- and who knows, she sings, too, so maybe she can contribute to the soundtrack as well...Hilary Duff is at least a triple threat.
OK, now, to talk about the rest of the characters and who I think should portray them, I need to delve a bit into the plot. Here's sort of my quick rundown/synopsis of an Exorcist remake.
First of all, I'd exorcize that whole Iraq prologue from the original. It serves no purpose, it makes no sense, and it simply adds unnecessary minutes to the film. We need to- boom!- jump right in and meet the McNeil family.
Chris McNeil isn't an actress this go-round...she's just an ordinary soccer mom, a loving wife and mother. Everything she knows is turned tragically upside down one day when Chris, daughter Regan, and husband Lex McNeil are driving home from one of Regan's soccer matches: they get in a horrible accident, and Lex dies.
I should note RIGHT NOW that Lex will be portrayed by Richard Gere. America and the rest of the world loved Richard Gere and Julia Roberts together in both Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride, so obviously America and the world will agree with me when I say that I would love to see them reunited again. Talk about chemistry!
After the accident, Chris and Regan move to Boston (who moves to Georgetown?) to recover. Chris is having a hard time- sometimes she sneaks a drink after Regan has gone to bed- but Regan finds solace in the arms of her new boyfriend Derek (played by Shia LeBoeuf). One night, after Chris has gone to bed, Regan and Derek head to the basement and...well, they do what teens do. They play board games and make out, though not in that order. Derek finds a dusty Ouija board, and dares Regan to play with him. At first it's all flirty, like "Does Derek love me?" and the board points to YES. But then, things start to get scary. Derek tells Regan a bit about the history of their house, about the murders that have taken place there, and how pilgrims used to sacrifice Native Americans on the land or something. Anyway, the Ouija board starts going crazy, right? Then, Captain Howdy- or Pazuzu- possesses Regan right there and then. In the original version of the film, you don't really see the possession taking place- the audience is left wondering for, like, an hour what's going on. Here's a chance for the effects people to work their magic, though. Just imagine if we saw a big Pazuzu fill the room and then enter Regan's body! Maybe the characters shouldn't see it happen, but the audience certainly could. It's a great opportunity for some CGI effects.
Soon, Regan begins acting weird. She's vomiting and cranky, not at all like the bright happy teen we've already come to know and love. Chris takes her to the doctor- to several doctors, and they all determine she's pregnant. Regan denies this possibility, insisting that she and Derek haven't gone all the way yet. There's a mysterious shape showing up on the ultrasound, though, so who knows what's really going on?
Consoling herself over a grande mochlattefrappucappuchai at Starbucks (hello, product placement...cha-ching!), Chris is surprised to find herself flirting with a handsome man who bumps into her, almost spilling his coffee. Here we have Father Karras, played by Colin Farrell. I say that we keep the whole "Father Karras has a crisis of faith" angle from the original, but this time we really explore why he's having the crisis- Father Karras and Chris McNeil fall in love. Will Father Karras give up the priesthood? Or will he remain a man of the cloth? It seems the only way he can really save the family he wants and loves is never to be with the family he really wants and loves, and that's called dramatic irony.
Regan's condition grows worse- Chris doesn't even recognize her own daughter anymore. She's swearing, she's sullen, and she's smoking. When the "big showdown" finally rolls around, Father Karras once again enlists the help of Father Merrin, a character I think we will all agree was a little...stiff the first time around. The guy was a major downer- in fact, the whole film was a major downer. The remake, though, gives filmmakers an opportunity to lighten things up, and I think in order to do this they should reimagine Father Merrin as a bit more...mmm, bumbling shall we say? And who says Father Merrin has to be so old? Couldn't they cast Kevin James of television's King of Queens in the role? He's an everyman that we all can relate to. Or what about Christopher Walken? Audiences will smile as soon as he walks on-screen.
Should filmmakers decide to maintain Father Merrin as an older, serious type (don't know why they would, but Hollywood works in mysterious ways sometimes LOL), then I sure hope they cast Lance Henriksen. He has horror clout beyond reproach, and when you see his name attached to a film, you know it's a harbinger of quality. Obviously, he has discerning taste as an actor; his work in such films as The Mangler 2 and Mimic 3 proves this- he doesn't simply act for a paycheck.
Now then, the final battle. I think both Fathers Karras and Merrin should die- just like the original- but not before literally drawing Pazuzu out of Regan's body. They did this in the original, I think, but it's really brief. Hello, we want to see the demon! Again, a great opportunity for some CGI work.
Oh, and I think they should change the name of the demon from Pazuzu to...well, given the history of the house, probably it should be a Native American demon. At least call it Chief Pazuzu or something.
Anyway, the priests both die, but Chief Pazuzu is still in the room! Derek and Regan are huddled on the bed (Regan is all better and pretty again), while Chris screams at the demon something like "Stay away from my family!"...and then, the ghost of Lex returns, kind of like at the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors when Nancy's dad returns in a shower of sparkles to defeat Freddy. Lex defeats Chief Pazuzu (in a killer CGI battle) once and for all, and he tells Chris and Regan to never forget him, but to move on and live happy lives anyway. He disappears in the sparkle shower from whence he came.
That's when Father Karras coughs! He's not dead! Chris rushes to his side, and makes him promise to never leave her. He decides to give up the cloth right there, and he asks her if she would take "an ex-priest" for a husband. Regan makes a joke about calling him "father"...Chris laughs- that awesome Julia Roberts laugh- and we get a sweeping crane shot that pulls back out Regan's bedroom window and moves over the streets of Boston, which are safe again.
I know my Photoshop skills are clunky, but here's a poster idea I came up with- how can you have a Julia Roberts movie and not take advantage of her (not at all like) Mona Lisa Smile in the adverts?
Anyway, my idea is but one angle for remaking The Exorcist. Even if Hollywood takes it another route, I certainly do hope that they go with a remake. The film sure needs it.
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