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The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear – A new book is heading our way

Shocked and horrified filmgoers were fainting in the aisles. In 1973, word got out that a new movie was so frightening, people were violently ill. Audiences lined up around the block to see a movie that introduced body horror, presented a shocking blend of religion and science, an unforgettable psychological examination of good and evil, an unnerving theme song that topped international music charts. Ats its heart was a single mother going through hell to save her innocent young daughter – and, of course, The Devil.

Half a century after The Exorcist opened and scared the hell into motion picture audiences around the world, The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear (on-sale July 25, 2023) takes a sweeping fifty-year look back at the scariest film ever made. Never intended by the director and writer to be a horror film, it continues to have an indisputable, immediate impact on new audiences. It not only challenged moviegoers and inspired decades of discussions about faith and God, but shook up the movie industry to its core. An instant phenomenon, it spawned four sequels and several spin-off that came in its wake. There is also a new trilogy of films beginning this October 2023.)

Author Nat Segaloff’s credentials go back to being a unit publicist for William Friedkin’s trail-blazing film, a friendship with the Academy Award®-winning director that led to his writing Friedkin’s biography, Hurricane Billy (1990). For the book he also interviewed actress Ellen Burstyn, Louise Fletcher, and a host of writers, editors, and movie historians.

The Exorcist is considered the most frightening horror movie of all time, a label that Segaloff—and the filmmakers—dispute. “They didn’t try to make a horror movie,” Segaloff recounts, “they wanted to make a detective story about the mystery of faith. You could say that The Exorcist is, at its heart, a religious picture, a film, like Blatty’s novel, that posits, if the devil exists, so must God. But people tend to forget about that when they’re dodging pea soup.”

The Exorcist Legacy begins, not with the famous film, but with the 1949 possession of a boy in Cottage City (not Mount Rainier) Maryland, a news story that inspired Georgetown University student Blatty to, years later, write his bestselling novel. Legacy reveals aspects of The Exorcist that no one has yet explored, and then covers its ill-fated 1977 sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic, its official sequel The Exorcist III (1990) and the two versions of the prequel, Exorcist: The Beginning (2005) and Dominion (2005). Segaloff also discusses the 20-episode TV series (2016-17), Blatty’s thematically related 1980 film The Ninth Configuration, and the forthcoming hotly anticipated remake, The Exorcist (2023).

“To this day,” Segaloff says, “there are people who refuse to see the original film and those that followed it. I’m not sure whether they avoid it because they have heard they’re so scary or because they are afraid that their faith will be shaken. Perhaps through The Exorcist Legacy they will realize that these are among the most meaningful biblical pictures ever made, and certainly more affecting than anything Cecil B. DeMille contrived.”

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