William Friedkin Reflects On 'Exorcist' Sequels, Says He Liked 'It'

With The ExorcistWilliam Friedkin directed one of the most iconic horror films of all time, the tale of a young girl possessed by a demon with a potty mouth. Despite Friedkin's success with The Exorcist, the filmmaker had nothing to do with the multiple sequels that followed. While some of the sequels (Exorcist II: The Heretic) are downright dreadful, Exorcist III is surprisingly very good. Still, none of the sequels can hold a candle to Friedkin's original. In a new interview, Friedkin weighed-in on his thoughts on the Exorcist sequels, and also revealed what he thinks of the smash horror hit It.

William Friedkin changed horror cinema forever when he adapted The Exorcist into a huge blockbuster in 1973, with the film becoming one of the most successful films of all time, taking in $232.9 million (which roughly translates to $983.3 million in 2017 dollars). When a film does that much business at the box office, it's only a matter of time before the studio demands some sequels.

Friedkin remained uninvolved with the multiple Exorcist sequels, mostly staying away from the horror genre in general for the rest of his career. In a new interview with Indiewire, Friedkin provided his thoughts on the multiple Exorcist sequels – Exorcist II: The Heritic, The Exorcist III, Exorcist: The Beginning, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. So just what does Friedkin think of all those sequels? Not much, because he's never even bothered to see them:

"I never saw any of the Exorcist films, not even Bill's (William Peter Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist novel, directed Exorcist III). I saw a few minutes of Exorcist II, but that was only because I was in the Technicolor lab timing a film that I had directed — I forget which one — and one of the color timers at Technicolor said, hey, we just made a print of Exorcist II, would you like to have a look at it? I said OK. I went in, and after five minutes, it just blasted me. I couldn't take it...I thought it was just ridiculous and stupid. But that was only five minutes, so I can't make an ultimate judgement about it. It just seemed to me to have nothing to do with The Exorcist...I know Bill [Blatty] did one, which was not meant to be called Exorcist III. It was from another novel he'd written called Legion. I had no interest. I loved Bill Blatty. I dedicated my documentary to him and we remained close friends to his death. But I know that he had to make a lot of compromises — he had to put an exorcism scene in there, which he never intended, so that the producers could call it Exorcist III."

Friedkin also provided some thoughts on the latest Stephen King adaptation It, which has usurped Friedkin's Exorcist as the biggest horror blockbuster. Friedkin calls the film "a little bit over the top," but ultimately says he enjoyed it. He does, however, seem to take mild offense to the idea that It has dethroned his film as the ultimate horror movie money maker:

"I thought it was a little bit over the top, but 'It' was really good. The clown was pretty scary stuff. I really like it. But here's the thing. It will never have as many admissions as 'The Exorcist' in terms of people who came to see it," he explained. "The price of a ticket when 'The Exorcist' came out was probably on average less than two dollars; I think today it's closer to nine. Neither 'The Exorcist' nor any of the other films that made a lot of money will ever have as many viewers as 'Gone with the Wind' or 'Birth of a Nation.' I think it cost 15 cents or a quarter to see. So you can't talk about how many people saw this more than something else because of the difference in the value of money. But it's kind of unusual for Warner Bros. to get behind a story like that because 'The Exorcist' has been such an important film to them. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Still, I liked 'It.' I thought it was terrific."

While Friedkin may have left the actual Exorcist franchise far behind, the practice of exorcism hasn't strayed from his mind. His most recent film is the documentary The Devil and Father Amorth, which chronicles a priest who performs real exorcisms.