REPOST: William Peter Blatty’s “Legion” to Hit the Stage!

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[NOTE: Welcome to Chillerpop’s 31 Days of Halloween 2020! As if this year needed more inconceivable horror! It doesn’t, but maybe some nostalgia and escapism will help? Yes, nostalgia for…an economic crisis. This blog, you see, began in the midst of the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008.

This month, mostly because I am lazy, I will repost some blogs from my original Open Salon page. These posts will be badly written, badly edited, and extremely out of date.]

Originally published MARCH 15, 2010 11:38PM

MARCH 15, 2010 11:38PM

William Peter Blatty’s “Legion” to Hit the Stage!


Chicago’s WildClaw Theatre is adapting Willliam Peter Blatty’s novel “Legion”, the basis for his 1990 film “Exorcist III” as a stage play.  I think this is an excellent opportunity to keep a purer vision of the source material in the face of audience and studio expectations of what a horror film should be.

If you look at the imdb.com message boards, there’s no shortage of postings declaring “The Exorcist” ‘boring’, ‘lame’, or much less  scary than Saws 1-45 (or whatever they’re up to now).  But as tempting as it is to point fingers at an ADD riddled internet torture-porn generation, back in 1989-1990 studio executives at Morgan Creek and 20th Century Fox had a similar attitude when they viewed Blatty’s first cut of his very worthy sequel to the original 1973 masterpiece (based also on Blatty’s novel and directed by William Friedkin).

In this rare article first published in Fangoria, Exorcist scholar and BBC film critic Mark Kermode explains how the original ending of “Exorcist III” was changed at the urging of studio executives, who did not approve of the lack of an actual gruesome and shocking exorcism in the film.  The original ending was subsequently replaced with a tacked-on $4 million exorcism sequence which Blatty and stars Brad Dourif (the man behind Chucky!), Jason Miller and George C. Scott did not like.   The result fulfills the mandate for pure horror theatrics in favor of a more cerebral and subtle ending. 

“Legion” and “Exorcist III” concern the continuing story of Lt. Kinderman, last seen trying to solve the murder of Burke Dennings in the original Exorcist.  This time, he’s on the trail of the Gemini killer, whose true nature is of course linked to the events of the original film and novel of “The Exorcist.”  It’s a vastly underrated movie, featuring a few spare, non-graphic but extremely chilling sequences. 

The Exorcist franchise has been very troubled and plagued, and not suprisingly (more to come on that in future postings).  It’s been marketed in the same categories as “Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th” but it’s nothing close to those films.  Sequels and remakes are going to dilute the powerful themes present in the original with extra gallons of pea-soup, and perhaps some severed limbs.  But on the stage? On the stage, my hope is that theological and psychological themes of “Legion” will come through in sharp focus, while the dependence on horror shock will be put aside.  I want goosebumps from nothing more than the sound of the Gemini Killer’s voice. 

I want to wonder about Lt. Kinderman’s own struggles with faith and belief.  I’m hoping for great things for this production, and I wish it was playing in New York!  

Asides:

– For Mark Kermode’s additional thoughts on the franchise, see here – but I disagree strongly about my beloved Exorcist II: The Heretic! 

– The 2010 film Legion is not related to Blatty’s work.  However, it makes use of one gag from Exorcist III: Spider-Granny! Exorcist III  (@ 2:40) Legion trailer

AUTHOR TAGS:

movieshorror movieshorrordemonspossession,exorcismexorcistlegionexorcist iiiblattywilliam peter blatty,kermodemark kermodebelief/religiontheaterwildclaw theatre,wildclawchillerpop


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