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Ghostbusters Honors... The Exorcist

 By Paul Rudoff on May. 2, 2023 at 11:45 PM , Categories: Ghostbusters 1, Ghostbusters 2, Real Ghostbusters, The 2016 Parody Remake, References , Tags:

Here at Spook Central, there is an entire category of articles detailing references to Ghostbusters, as well as a selection of articles looking at the movies and shows that Ghostbusters drew inspiration from, and starting today, there will be some articles about the things that the Ghostbusters franchise itself makes reference to. I don't think there is any one single thing that is referenced throughout the entire Ghostbusters franchise any more than The Exorcist. Read on to find out more...

The Exorcist is a 1973 film directed by William Friedkin from a screenplay by William Peter Blatty, based on Blatty's novel of the same name. It is the story of possessed teenager Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) and the two priests, Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) and Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), who try to free her from the grip of the demon Pazuzu. The 2000 "Extended Director's Cut" (aka "The Version You've Never Seen") has been rated R for for strong language and disturbing images, so TEXT AND MULTIMEDIA FROM HERE ON MAY CONTAIN EXPLICIT CONTENT. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.


The Ghostbusters franchise wastes no time in paying homage to The Exorcist, as we get several references and connections in Ghostbusters (1984). For the sake of not starting off with profanity - to give those who wish to stop reading a chance to do so - I'm going to jump to later in the film where Peter has arrived at Dana's apartment for their date. Just like little Regan, Dana has found herself possessed by a supernatural entity. Zuul must have taken possession lessons from Pazuzu, because she causes Dana to levitate four-feet above her covers.

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You'll notice that Reitman edited the scene to match what Friedkin did, including the close-up of the possessee's face, whose eyes roll into her head.

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Dana took a little nap thanks to Peter shooting her up with 300ccs of Thorazine (generic name: Chlorpromazine).

This same drug was also used on Regan, which makes sense as it's used to treat mental illness, behavioral disorders, tetanus, blood disorders such as porphyria, and severe nausea and vomiting. It seems really suspicious that Peter brought this drug with him on a date. What exactly was he planning on doing to Dana?!?

Both Zuul's demonic voice, and Gozer's voice, are nods to Mercedes McCambridge's vocal performance as the demon in The Exorcist.

Per Making Ghostbusters (page 127): "In an unusual twist on the directorial cameo, Dana's demonic voice -- reminiscent of Mercedes McCambridge's intonations in The Exorcist -- was actually that of Ivan Reitman. Reitman, in fact, provided all of the unearthly voices in the film, except that of Gozer." This also came up in the 1999 DVD commentary track, where Joe Medjuck refers to it as "The Exorcist voice"

Per Making Ghostbusters (page 183): "We tried for a long time to use the actress' [Slavitza Jovan] real voice; but because of her accent, I was afraid it might come off as being funny. After that, we went through six or seven different voices. I did one myself, but it wasn't very good. I tried a traditional 'voice of God' approach, but that was boring. I tried an effeminate male voice which was okay on some of the lines, but really sounded silly on others. Finally I decided on a very low Exorcist-type female voice which -- although it had obviously been used before -- still worked out the best." -- Ivan Reitman. An uncredited Paddi Edwards would provide the voice of Gozer.

Early in the film, our introduction to the future Ghostbusters is at the Paranormal Studies Lab on the university campus. The lab door has been graffitied with "Venkman, Burn in Hell".


Per Making Ghostbusters (page 18): "In the first Aykroyd-Ramis collaboration, the graffiti read: 'Venkman sucks cocks in Hell!' -- an amusing reference to one of the shocker lines from The Exorcist. An occasional R-rated expletive -- strictly for humorous effect -- was also to be found in the early Ghostbusters drafts. In the end, however, Ivan Reitman opted to take the high road with regard to language and taste."


Father Merrin himself, Max von Sydow, took an uncredited role as the commanding voice of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II (1989). According to Ivan Reitman in the 2019 Blu-ray commentary, "He came in for one day, did this quickly for us, and it was amazing."

Max von Sydow reprised the role 20 years later in Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009), where the Vigo painting appeared in the Ghostbusters' firehouse. The player could prompt the painting to speak by interacting with it, resulting in 114 different lines of newly-recorded dialog by von Sydow. Making light of his previous film work, the stylized version of the game features the exclusive quote, "This isn't Ghostbusters. This is The Exorcist!"

The realistic version of the game isn't without a reference, though. During the "Museum of (Super)Natural History" level, after Winston and the Rookie exorcise Ray and trap the Possessor while looking for the assistant, Winston says, "That's fusion-based exorcism in a nutshell. Cleaner than somebody's head spinning all around and barfing pea soup."

(credit: Ghostbusters Wiki)

In The Exorcist, Pazuzu caused Regan's head to spin around and projectile-vomit pea soup. Those two acts would be recreated in an official film that bears the "Ghostbusters" name...


Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (2016) is Paul Feig's ill-conceived female-led film that managed to lampoon Ghostbusters, while being an official remake of it, and pissing off everyone of all genders and species in the process. Quite the feat for a film that, otherwise, failed at being all of the things it was trying to be: funny, scary, and witty.

Anyway, the film does manage to pay homage to several bits from The Exorcist. The first time that Abby, Erin, and Jillian get proof that ghosts are real is when they visit the Aldridge Mansion, where they see the spirit of Gertrude Aldridge. Since Feig believes that juvenile gross-out humor is king, the ghost promptly "ecto-projects" (vomits) all over Erin...

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...ala Regan's projectile-vomiting of pea soup in father Karras' face.

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Later, Feig manages to crib The Exorcist three times in one scene! That would be the scene in which Abby is possessed by Rowan, right after more ectoplasm-vomiting in the bathroom because you can never have enough vomit in a movie about people who bust ghosts, I guess. (This vomit could also be considered a reference, but I've written enough about vomit already.) When Patty and Jillian fight with possessed Abby, at one point, Abby's head turns completely around. This prompts Patty to remark, "The Devil is a liar!", which makes no sense in the context of the scene.

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Regan also had her head spun around by the demon inside her.


Patty's nonsensical line is a nod to Father Merrin telling Father Karras that "the demon is a liar" and he should not trust anything it says.

In an effort to get Rowan out of Abby's body, which is only the domain of Ben Falcone, Patty slaps the shit out of Abby. Seriously, had she gone all MMA on Abby, I could have gotten behind this. Proving that Feig has a knack for taking lines from The Exorcist and using them out of context in stupid ways, Patty screams out, "The power of Patty compels you!" What the hell is that supposed to mean?!?

At least Father Merrin's original line, "The power of Christ compels you!", makes sense.

I really wish that Fieg had put his spin on the crucifix masturbation scene from The Exorcist. That I would pay to see. I know that it was very shocking back in 1973, but watching that scene now always prompts me to laugh out loud, especially when Regan tells her mother to "lick me", then bitch slaps her across the face. It seems like something out of the parody film Repossessed (1990), which starred Linda Blair and Leslie Nielsen, or maybe a porn parody (which does exist - were you surprised?). Beetlejuice was right when he said that after seeing The Exorcist about 167 times, "it keeps getting funnier, every single time I see it".


References aren't limited to the live-action world. Even the animated Ghostbusters have gotten in on the action. The Real Ghostbusters (1986) features two nods, the first of which is in the episode "Apocalypse--What Now?". As stated on page 20 of the June 9, 1986 script, when Father Yanos - who bears a resemblance to Father Merrin - arrives at the Firehouse, a little bit of "Tubular Bells" (the theme music from The Exorcist) would have been heard. Unfortunately, there isn't even a knock-off used, as the scene just plays the standard series music.


While that one is a woulda coulda, we do get a solid reference in the later episode "Something's Going Around", where the staging of Dr. McCatheter's arrival at the Firehouse...


...is a nod to the iconic arrival of Father Merrin at the MacNeil's house.



Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) provides even more connections, starting with the very first episode, "Darkness At Noon, Part 2". Eduardo tells Kylie that she was possessed saying, "I had to. You were doing the Linda Blair bit, you were like possessed!"

Interestingly, Linda Blair herself, would voice Celine (the purple-haired "witch") in the episode "Witchy Woman" near the end of the series.


Finally, I was going to focus this article strictly on the audio/video media, but MrMichaelT of the Ghostbusters Wiki, who helped me fill in some gaps, found several references in the IDW comic books. I might as well cover them, too.

• Ghostbusters, Volume 1 #9 Cover RI-A - The cover art by Mike Henderson features the exterior of the MacNeil house.


• Ghostbusters, Volume 2 #18 - On page 11, Kylie jokes about the "Young priest and an old priest" aspect of The Exorcist.


• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters #1 - On page 15, the priest officiating the wedding is visually based on Father Merrin.


• Ghostbusters International #1 - On page 8, panel 4, one of the ghost priests is visually based on Father Karras.


• Ghostbusters: Answer The Call #1 - On page 3, Patty lists off horror movies with creepy kids, and The Exorcist is one of them.



It awaits to be seen if the new Ghostbusters movie, currently filming in the United Kingdom and still set for release in December 2023, will pay homage to The Exorcist. Jason and Gil didn't include any nods in Afterlife, but maybe they will this time around. If they do, I'll update this article. Until then, I think I've covered everything. Thanks again to MrMichaelT for his invaluable help in putting this together.

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