You know what the prime time television schedule needs more of? Exorcisms. With that in mind, Fox has ordered the adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 book The Exorcist to pilot. Screenwriter Jeremy Slater, of Fantastic Four and The Lazarus Effect, has been tapped to pen the hour-long drama. He’ll also executive produce alongside James Robinson, David Robinson and Barbara Wall in a production from 20th Century Fox Television and Morgan Creek Productions. Update: Deadline reports that Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) will direct the pilot.
THR reported on Fox’s order of The Exorcist to pilot, describing the modern reinvention as “a propulsive, serialized psychological thriller following two very different men tackling one family’s case of horrifying demonic possession, and confronting the face of true evil.” Blatty most famously adapted his own work for William Friedkin’s horror film of the same name, for which the author won one of the picture’s two Oscars.
The book, which was inspired by the 1949 exorcism of Roland Doe, centers on the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl, Regan, and the resulting exorcism conducted by two priests with the aim to restore Regan’s soul. It sounds like the TV version would skew close to the source material as well, though I can’t imagine the famous foul-mouthed Regan, as portrayed by Linda Blair, will make its way to prime time television. Then again, early comparisons to the project reference Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series, which brought the cannibalistic sociopath to the small screen in fantastic form.
Speaking of fantastic, screenwriter Slater’s work on Fantastic Four is currently nominated for a Razzie for Worst Screenplay along with Simon Kinberg and Josh Trank, so that doesn’t necessarily bode well for this project. His only previous feature film script came by way of last year’s little-seen sci-fi/horror/thriller The Lazarus Effect, which currently enjoys a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite those less-than-stellar performances, Slater is also tapped to write Adam Wingard’s Death Note adaptation, and wrote the psychological thriller, Pet. Time will tell if his work on The Exorcist is able to replicate the classic film’s style, staying-power, and/or critical and financial success.