The Exorcist is without a doubt my favourite horror film of all time, and even today I still find the film to most unsettling, scariest horror film EVER made. The older I get, the harder the film becomes to watch because it is THAT scary, so the idea of listening to the story in the radio has me very intrigued.
Later this month a version of The Exorcist will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and according to producer and director Gaynor Macfarlane, will be just as scary as the film that caused widespread controversy in America and Britain when it was first released in 1973.
Playing over two consecutive nights, the radio adaptation will be based on the same book William Friedkin’s classic horror film was based on, and will deal with the possession of a young girl named Regan.
Broadcasting the story over the radio obviously has limitations as the film version had so many disturbing visuals which made it so powerful. One of the films most memorable scenes was seeing Regan’s head doing a 360, Macfarlane addresses how the radio broadcast will deliver that moment:
“In the book there is some doubt about whether Regan’s head turns around or not. Our version may not have these filmic tricks, but it has a gradual, creeping, perhaps more toxic horror. You feel tainted by hearing it.”
She added: “Robert Forrest, who adapted the story for us, was fascinated by the psychological story and he has put Father Karras, the priest figure, at the centre of the story. It takes him to the point of a possible breakdown.”
The Exorcist caused quite a stir when released in US cinemas in 1973, and sick bags were issued to viewers. In the UK the film was released but quickly banned by several councils, and the film did not receive a BBFC rating until 1999 when it was finally given an official UK release. There was also a fuss in 2001 when the film was shown on terrestrial television in the UK for the first time on Channel 4.
“It does feel like a departure for Radio 4, but it is a classic of the horror genre,” said Macfarlane this weekend. “On the BBC iPlayer it will carry a warning, because we think it is frightening. In the film the demon is very foul-mouthed, but we have changed that so it is not just a ranting presence, but something really frightening, witty and knowing instead. It gets right inside Karras’s head.”
Jeremy Howe, Radio 4’s commissioning editor for drama, has justified the decision to make The Exorcist by saying that he wants to diversify the station’s output. “Horror is an under-explored genre for us,” he said.
Robert Forrest adapted the book for the radio broadcast, but it sounds like he has been facing his own Demons by doing so:
“One development I always hope for when working on a dramatisation is that I begin to hear the book’s characters speak in my head; then they become my characters,” he has explained. “Unfortunately, or fortunately, when I began work on The Exorcist the first voice in my head was that of the demon. I had that sneering, merciless creature whispering in my ear constantly – for months. This was frightening and exhausting; it was also exhilarating. There were times, when the demon’s attack on other characters – and on humanity in general – was especially fierce, that I felt the dangerous thrill of being on its side.”
The Exorcist will be broadcast on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February at 11pm.
(Source: The Guardian)