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The devil you'll never know

By Nick Nunziata
CNN Headline News

Max Von Sydow in a scene from 1973's "The Exorcist."

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The Exorcist

(CNN) -- Sometimes it's hard to decide which is truly more horrific: The world of horror or the world of the film business.

With horror you have staples to rely on. You know that the victim is going to open a closet and get startled by a cat while the real villain lurks behind them. You know that the scary voice on the phone will be revealed to be coming from upstairs in the house. You know that the little girl isn't vomiting pea soup across the room because it's fun, though I must admit that it is a hobby of mine.

The familiarity of horror is what makes the genre eternal. After a long week, sometimes we need a little shock or a little mayhem in our escapism. The horror of reality is present every time we unfold a newspaper or change the channel, so we'll take a guy in a hockey mask on film over a guy in a ski mask in real life any chance we can get.

That makes sense. The film business does us no such favors. It's a serpentine beast, impossible to predict and often one whose motives and logic seem veiled in the mire.

A perfect example would be how the upcoming "Exorcist: The Beginning" prequel has been handled through its unique and controversial existence.

For those who aren't aware, the fourth film in the successful horror series was shot last year in Italy and Morocco with respected filmmaker Paul Schrader behind the lens and the always solid Stellan Skarsgärd playing the younger incarnation of the priest that Max von Sydow played in the 1973 original.

That's a rather solid one-two punch, especially in a business where most franchises have lost all their creative steam by their second installment. This was to be a very smart and very classical horror film.

Remember, "The Exorcist" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards back in the day. This isn't a series raised upon cheap scares but rather deeply psychological terrors, things that shake people to their very core.

Most horror aficionados would be chomping at the bit to see an "Exorcist" movie from the writer of "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull," but because of Hollywood's penchant for all things illogical, we'll never see the film.

Even though the movie was finished and assembled, a new director and a mostly new cast has been brought on board to shoot the film anew. Who is this director brought in to make Schrader's thought-provoking cerebral horror film into a fast-paced and flashy thriller geared toward today's audience? Renny Harlin, the man behind "Cutthroat Island" and "Cliffhanger."

It makes you wonder if the powers that be felt we as an audience weren't able to appreciate a film geared more toward the motives of fear and the concept of faith. Schrader's film may have been truly special, but we may never know.

Instead, we'll see a weird amalgam of a movie, one whose behind the scenes turmoil will probably eclipse whatever terror appears on the screen.

Now, that is horror.

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