Exorcist director says sequel is 'one of the worst films I've ever seen'

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Apr 15, 2013, 4:35 PM EDT

William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, has no problem speaking his mind about the sequels that have come out in the original horror classic's wake.

Speaking with the Huffington Post to promote his new memoir, The Friedkin Connection (out tomorrow, April 16), Friedkin was of course asked about the iconic status of The Exorcist, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. When the subject of sequels came up, he had this to say:

...what tends to happen is all these sequels and rip-offs where they just diminish the value of the original. And that's happened to "The Exorcist." John Nance Garner, the vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt, famously said, "The Vice Presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm spit." Well, there isn't one sequel to "The Exorcist" that's worth a bucket of warm spit. "The Exorcist 2" is one of the worst films I've ever seen. It's terrible. I find it worse than terrible; I find it disgusting.

Most fans and critics would actually agree with Friedkin there; while there have been some attempts at a re-evaluation of the film, The Exorcist II is widely regarded not just as a lousy follow-up to the original but one of the bigger cinematic embarrassments of its time.

What about Exorcist III, though? That 1990 film starred George C. Scott and was directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel The Exorcist. Surely his sequel -- which some fans consider the only one worthy of the original -- rated better in Friedkin's mind? Apparently not:

It was originally titled "The Legion," and it was based on a book Blatty wrote. But the studio, Morgan Creek, decided to call it "Exorcist 3." Blatty had sold them the rights, and that was one of their rights. They called it "Exorcist 3," and what can I say? I love Blatty, and I owe a great deal to Blatty, as I say in the book. But to me all the sequels are unwatchable.

We assume that includes the two prequels -- Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) -- which were actually two different versions of the same film, neither of which went over very well with audiences or critics either.

Despite his feelings, however, Friedkin doesn't worry about his movie's legacy being tarnished by the others:

I basically regard the films I make as very close to relatives or children. But I don't equate those films with what somebody else ripped off. I had nothing to do with them. If I had, I would be ashamed.

Do you agree with Friedkin that The Exorcist stands alone and apart from its sequels? Is he being too hard on those films, or do you agree that they're "unwatchable"?