Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist just began streaming on Shudder, and it’s an intriguing deep dive into the groundbreaking horror film.
Leap of Faith joins the other excellent documentaries currently available on Shudder, and if you have watched Cursed Films, In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic 80s Horror and Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, you know exactly what I am talking about.
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist consists of film clips, still shots, and, most importantly, the words and experiences of Friedkin himself. He is on camera throughout most of the doc, and his memories and stories are captivating.
1973’s The Exorcist is often considered to be the greatest horror film of all time. It was certainly ahead of its time, and dealt with the controversial subject matter, especially since Linda Blair (who played young Regan) was only 12 years old at the time of filming.
Friedkin starts by walking us through the opening scene of The Exorcist, which was filmed at an actual archeological dig in Iran. He goes on to tell us about films that influenced him from an early age, and about seeing Citizen Kane for the first time, crediting it for being the driving force behind his decision to become a filmmaker.
Friedkin drops a lot of interesting stories about casting the film, including his decision to cast Jason Miller, who had zero film credits at the time, in the lead role of Father Karras. Miller had written the play That Championship Season, for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize and the 1973 Tony Award for Best Play. Friedkin saw his play, approached him to discuss the subject of lapsed Catholicism in the show, and recommended reading William Peter Blatty’s novel. I won’t give away all of the particulars, but that story is one of the many reasons to watch Leap of Faith.
Leap of Faith is essentially a 90-minute interview with William Friedkin, one in which the interviewer is silent. But, the director’s words are well chosen and always interesting. He comes across as a man who is very passionate about his work, particularly his work on The Exorcist, and he even tells us how certain shots in the film were inspired by paintings.
That famous shot of Father Merrin standing in front of Chris MacNeil’s home at night, with the light from Regan’s window shining down on him? That one was inspired by Rene Magritte’s painting Empire of Light. Again, this is just one of the fascinating details we learn in the words of Friedkin himself.
We all know the iconic theme song, which was taken from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, but we learn from Friedkin what a long, difficult journey it was for him to find the right score for The Exorcist. Most of the final score was just bits and pieces of different modern classical compositions.
Whether you are a fan of The Exorcist, or just a fan of film itself, Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist is an entertaining and informative look at both the film and its director. And I have to admit, I am now planning to watch The Exorcist again very soon.
Do you think The Exorcist is one of the best horror films of all time? Tell us your opinion in the comments section.