The Exorcist appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. For the purposes of the review, I went with the 1973 theatrical version. While it definitely showed its age, I felt pleased with the transfer.
One should expect a certain level of erratic visuals, though, as some scenes looked objectively great while others were considerably messier, and this affected most aspects of the movie, including sharpness.
At times, the movie boasted excellent clarity and delineation, but other elements came across as looser and less concise. Overall definition was very good, however, and I never felt distracted by any of the softer shots.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I also failed to discern edge enhancement or artifacts. I certainly couldn’t find any digital noise reduction, as the movie featured consistent grain. Source flaws were a non-factor, as the flick lacked any signs of specks, marks or other concerns.
After the intense Iraq scenes at the start, the film with a generally chilly palette, Exorcist kept most of the colors subdued.
We found occasional instances of blood red tones, and the pea green vomit stood out, but the other hues tended to be low-key. They were appropriate and fit the production design, with HDR that gave the colors added impact.
Blacks felt deep and dense, while shadows felt smooth and clear. HDR brought range and impact to whites and contrast. This turned into a strong rendition of the film.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the movie’s Dolby Atmos audio offered a surprisingly active affair. This meant that scenes used all the channels to create a vivid, engaging soundscape.
Well, within the movie’s ambitions, as a lot of it stayed low-key and internal. Still, plenty of scenes – such as those in Iraq or on city streets – opened up the soundfield.
These gave the mix a nice sense of place and involvement. Music boasted appealing spread as well and these components all combined to deliver a lively track.
Audio quality showed its age but largely felt solid. Speech could seem a bit reedy at times, but the lines remained fairly natural and concise.
Music appeared full and rich, while effects came across as accurate and tight. This turned into a better than expected remix.
Never found on prior DVDs or Blu-rays, the 4K finally gave viewers the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack – alongside the theatrical cut, that is. Because the expanded version only existed with a multichannel mix, it didn’t make sense to come with mono material.
I felt very happy to get the original 1973 track, and the material held up well. Like with the Atmos mix, dialogue remained somewhat thick, but the lines still seemed more than acceptable.
Music and effects lacked quite the same impact and punch heard on the Atmos track, but they felt well-reproduced and accurate. Although I appreciate the scope of the Atmos remix, I tend to prefer theatrical audio so I feel very happy to get this track here, as it will be my go-to mix for the movie.
How did the 4K UHD compare the original Blu-ray from 2010? As noted, the 4K marked the original mono mix’s debut, and the Atmos track worked much better than the erratic 5.1 from the Blu-ray.
Visuals also showed a nice boost, with improved delineation, blacks and colors. The 4K offered an appealing upgrade.
Note that 2013 marked a 40th Anniversary Blu-ray for Exorcist. It literally replicated the 2010 BD and simply added more bonus materials.
Across the two 4K discs, we get three audio commentaries, and the first two accompany the theatrical cut. One comes from director William Friedkin, as he offers a running, screen-specific look at the film.
Friedkin covers how he came onto the project, working with Blatty and adapting the novel, story/character issues, makeup and effects, sets and locations, editing, cast and performances, music, audio and other elements.
In other commentaries, Friedkin has proven to be a dull participant – heck, you won’t have to look far in this review to find evidence of that. Happily, Boring Bill remains absent during this consistently informative chat.
The director covers a wide variety of useful topics here, and he does so in a clear, involving manner. We learn a ton about the movie and enjoy ourselves along the way.
For the second chat, we hear from writer William Peter Blatty. He tells us what drew him to the subject and then gets into writing the novel, adapting it into a film, and various thoughts about the flick.
Blatty provides a good complement to Friedkin and covers his side of the production in a fine manner. We get honest thoughts about his areas and learn quite a lot here.
Note that Blatty doesn’t offer a full two-hour commentary. Instead, he chats for about 57 minutes, so he gives us more of an “audio essay”.
After his notes end, we get various sound effects tests, most of which concentrate on attempts to develop Regan’s “demon voice”. They become a moderately interesting extra.
Over on the “Director’s Expanded Cut” disc, we find an additional commentary from director William Friedkin. This is another running, screen-specific chat – very screen-specific, in fact.
When I first reviewed this track, I said this: “Although Friedkin very occasionally offers an interesting tidbit about the film, for the most part he simply describes the action that we see. He does so in a fairly engaging manner, but I got the feeling he thought he was recording a “books on tape” version of The Exorcist. Friedkin adds a little interpretation of the film, but not much, and I found this track to be quite dull as a whole.”
Years later, I wondered if I’d been too hard on Friedkin, so I listened to the commentary again. If anything, I wasn’t hard enough on the track, as it really offers almost literally nothing other than mildly interpretive narration.
We get maybe two minutes of actual filmmaking information, and even when those notes appear – such as when Friedkin discusses shooting in Iraq – the same details already appear on the old commentary.
I can think of literally no logical reason to listen to this track, as it tells us nothing about the movie’s creation. It’s a total waste of two-plus hours.
Alongside the theatrical cut, director Friedkin pops up again for an Introduction. In this two-minute, 11-second clip, he gives us a little background about the story and the film. Nothing here is essential – and you’ll hear virtually all of it elsewhere – but this is a decent lead-up to the movie.
In an unfortunate trend seen with their 4Ks for East of Eden and Rio Bravo, all the pre-existing extras outside of the commentaries and the intro go absent here. Warner could’ve included a Blu-ray with the package but didn’t, so fans will need to retain their old BDs if they want all those bonus materials.
Is The Exorcist the greatest horror film of all-time? Probably. 50 years after its initial release, the movie has lost none of its ability to scare, as it remains nearly timeless. The 4K UHD provides very good picture and audio but it loses lots of supplements from prior Blu-rays. While the movie looks and sounds better than ever, the absence of those extra disappoints.
To rate this film visit the Blu-Ray review of THE EXORCIST