From “Nosferatu” (1922) to films as diverse as “Psycho” or “Carrie” to more recent works such as “Get Out” (2017), there is a long, deep red trail of dark, bizarre and, above all, scary cinematic works. “The Exorcist” from 1973 has a special place in this list. The film, which won two Oscars, tells the story of a possessed girl with drastic images and fantastic music and attracted a lot of attention at the time. The 50th anniversary of the masterpiece is now being honored, among other things, with a thick anniversary Blu-Ray box.

A special year for fans of the film, especially since its brilliant creator William Friedkin died at the beginning of August at the age of 87. As if that wasn’t enough, a new “Exorcist” appears, which in many ways relates to the original. The film is directed by David Gordon Green and Ellen Burstyn (born 1932), who was in the original, is starring again.

Two girls disappear

It’s been 13 years since Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) lost his beloved wife in a major earthquake in Haiti. Alone and in a fairly spacious house, he is now raising their daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett from “Good Girls”). A close, touching relationship connects daughter and father. But the mother’s early death is always on the cards.

A new day: Victor takes his daughter to high school in the morning and they both have a date in the evening. When Victor comes home – it is already dark – he only finds empty rooms and no Angela. And her friend Katherine (newcomer Olivia O’Neill), with whom Angela was out after school, is also gone.

After days of fear, intensive police work, and arguments between Victor and Katherine’s parents, both finally reappear: outwardly unkind, but internally, as it becomes increasingly clear, severely damaged. Nobody knows what happened during the three days (later the film makes reference to the resurrection of Jesus after three days); The girls don’t remember anything either. But at some point everyone realizes that Angela and Katherine will never be the same again.

Children and young people as agents of evil – a long-established topos in American horror films. While in the original from 1973 it was Regan who was seized by a demon, this time it is two teenagers possessed by evil. The fact that children on the threshold of adulthood also encounter emotional confusion with their own parents is also reflected in the soundtrack. For example, in the scene in which the screaming of a child seamlessly transitions into the noise of a jackhammer.

Horror and neediness

The sound editing brilliantly continues what the script and visual design show us over the course of two hours: the horror that can come from young people, but also their great need. The fear of parents for their offspring, who seem to be threatened from so many sides during puberty.

There are several goosebumps moments in this two-hour film. Not least for fans of the first part. Particularly nice: the moment when Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” theme from the original is heard for the first time. Just as the first “Halloween” is hardly conceivable without the great film music by John Carpenter, in “Exorcist” it is the gentle, enigmatic chime theme that can still touch and even frighten you in 2023. Oldfield’s music is as understated as it is irresistible, as harmless as it is unforgettable. Actually, it doesn’t really fit in with this film, which is so drastic in many ways (rated for ages 16 and up). But it is this ambivalence that characterizes the original, as well as this continuation of the story, which is graceful in many scenes.

Despite all its retro bliss, the film doesn’t forget the present: for example, the scene in which the character played by Ellen Burstyn speaks about the fact that there is a lot of evil in our world. And that this doesn’t always only show itself in a supernatural form. Which immediately brings to mind contemporary political villains.

American horror films have repeatedly managed to address social trends and contemporary conflicts – in genre films of the 1960s, for example, the Vietnam War or racism in the USA. The new “Exorcist” counters the current turmoil in US society with a surprisingly positive, almost utopian image.

In the obligatory expulsion sequence, also based on 1973, all of the film’s antagonists come together: from the local priest to the atheist father, from the believing but doubting nurse to Katherine’s slightly bigoted parents. A beautiful, surprisingly forgiving moment for a horror film. You won’t forget this scary, sometimes exaggerated film so quickly. Especially since it makes you think. About what constitutes so-called evil. And why it has such a permanent place in our world.

– The Exorcist – Confession, USA 2023, 112 min., FSK for ages 16 and up, by David Gordon Green, with Ellen Burstyn, Leslie Odom Jr., Lidya Jewett.