Devious Dialogues: A.M. Novak and Mike Thorn on FOX’s ‘The Exorcist’

In April, A.M. Novak and Mike Thorn discussed The Exorcist film series in detail. FOX recently announced a second season for Jeremy Slater’s television adaptation, so Novak and Thorn discussed the news at the request of a “Devious Dialogues” reader.

Mike: The first thing that struck me about this series is that its narrative approach is opposite to the prequels (Exorcist: The Beginning [2004] and Dominion [2005]). Whereas those films took different approaches with Father Merrin’s backstory (and, to my mind, equally unsuccessful), creator Jeremy Slater moves forward here to further explore the MacNeil family. In doing so, he reimagines a lot of what was presumably resolved at the end of William Peter Blatty’s novel and William Friedkin’s adaptation. As someone who admires both, I couldn’t stifle the cognitive dissonance — Slater’s MacNeils don’t at all resemble my recollection/perception of Blatty’s original characters. What do you make of Slater’s decision to create a story that builds off the original novel?

Anya: I did notice a disparity between the dynamic of Reagan and her mother in both the novel and the 1973 film, and that of their relationship in the show. There was a definite choice on the writers’ part to create conflict between the now-grown Reagan and her mother Chris MacNeil, due to Chris’ callous exploitation of her daughter’s ordeal after the events in Georgetown. However, in both the novel and the original, there is nothing but the deepest unconditional love between the duo. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of the people watching FOX’s The Exorcist have at least seen the 1973 film, and remember the strong familial bond, myself included. This bond is the source of so much empathy for the characters involved that, for me, their relationship in the new series feels like an unwelcome change that undermined that very empathy. That said, I appreciate the angle that Slater takes by exploring the entire MacNeil family, and found that the emotional ties amongst the other family members (sisters Casey and Kat, and father Henry) provides an adequate substitute for what was lost on Reagan and Chris.

Read the full dialogue in Vague Visages.

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