In the last few years I’ve become accustomed to a flood of horror movies surging forth for Halloween, but this year’s selection seems surprisingly skimpy — a sign of the downturn in the DVD marketplace, or have the studios finally run out of exploitable back product? We do have a superb new Blu-ray edition of “The Exorcist,” featuring both William Friedkin’s 1973 original release cut and the 2000 “version you’ve never seen” that restores some expository sequences at the request of the film’s writer and producer, William Peter Blatty.
In one of the many documentaries that fill out the two-disc release, Friedkin says that he now considers the 2000 version the definitive one, but I’ll be more Catholic than the Pope here (to employ a relevant cliché) and go with the original cut. It’s in the shorter version that you feel the real radicalism of Friedkin’s approach in its early 70s context — the way he seems to be pushing beyond classical Hollywood narrative by eliminating much of the exposition and going straight for a series of visceral, high-impact scenes. With the double whammy of this and “The French Connection,” Friedkin had a profound effect on the way American movies were “told,” leaving the audience to supply much of the connective dramatic tissue.
“House,” a 1977 horror spoof from the Japanese avant-garde director Nobohiko Obayashi, goes even further down that line, abandoning any sincere effort to tell a story in favor of bouncing the spectator through a series of isolated set-pieces and studiously grotesque imagery. Takashi Miike is not far away. Criterion has released “House” in a pleasingly garish Blu-ray edition (and in standard def as well); further commentary here in The New York Times.