You might expect a series based on the film The Exorcist would be a playground for an Audio Designer and you’d be right. Over 7 episodes there are numerous exorcisms and spooky events as well as the dramatizations of the making of the film you’d expect. This post highlights a few of my favorite scenes.
The Willam Brinkley Suicide.
William was the journalist who wrote about an actual exorcism in the Washington Post in the late 40s which inspired writer Bill Blatty to later write the best-selling novel “The Exorcist” which became a screenplay and then film.
This is the cold open to the first episode and so really set the tone of the audio design for the entire series: Minimal music score, documentary style sound twisted as needed to illustrate subjective and supernatural points of view. In this case, a man haunted by major depressive disorder.
There are plenty of exorcism scenes to choose from in the series and my view is they’re best consumed in context of the series story. That said, the possessed animal in the cold open to episode 6 is among my favorites as a scene. It’s such a vivid and fantastical scenario which begged for expressionistic audio design.
Let’s not forget that before The Exorcist, before The French Connection, Director William Friedkin was a documentary film-maker. That aesthetic is apparent in his direction of those two films.
This scene takes place during Friedkin’s documentary days when he was in person to witness an electric chair execution.
When faced with the Audio Design of this scene I wanted to avoid the expressionistic approach I used with the supernatural material in the series.
Instead, I decided to treat the scene as Friedkin treated the medical treatment scenes of the Reagan character in The Exorcist film. Clinical, cold, and routine. Documentary style impressionism.
And finally - the very end. This clip merges the “Robbie Haunted Boy Storyline” introduction from Episode 1 to it’s conclusion at the end of E7.
For the end, series creator and host Mark Ramsey knew he wanted Robbie to somehow demonstrate on the call that he was still possessed. He gave me one reference - the Canadian cult horror classic Black Christmas. If you’ve never seen it a menacing voice(s) keeps calling a house and terror ensues.
From that guide I designed the transformation - all the possessed “dialogue” is me and it was “conjured” during improvised performance.
The next trick was having the possessing spirit end the call and end up in the room with YOU. This is where I used Binaural audio.
I can write a long post about my general distaste for the sound of “3D audio” and entire series recorded in binaural. I feel it’s much more effective as a spice, a “special effect” rather than the main course. This clip demonstrates that. At the end binaural is used to create a clear distinction that what was once on the other end of the phone - is now in the room right friggin next to you!
There many more great moments across Inside The Exorcist I’ll probably end up sharing in future posts.
I had the opportunity to do a lot of custom recording for this series and it remains one of my favorites.