The Exorcist stairs scene where Regan spider walks toward her horrified mother and her house guests is infamous – but wasn’t in the original version. Here’s why The Exorcist spider walk scene was deleted from the theatrical cut, then later restored. Often cited as one of the greatest and scariest horror films ever made, The Exorcist still remains the benchmark for demonic possession movies nearly 50 years after its release. Based on a book by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist was a critical and commercial hit, and one of the rare horror movies to reach renown outside genre aficionados.
The Exorcist franchise is full of iconic moments, including Regan’s head twisting around 360 degrees or the notorious Crucifix scene. It’s uncertain how many of these memorable scenes will be included in the upcoming David Gordon Green Exorcist remake. One Exorcist moment that took decades to get noticed was the spider walk scene, in which Regan walks backward down the stairs on her hands with a mouthful of blood. The reason it went under the radar is that The Exorcist stairs scene was deleted from the film’s initial 1974 release, only being restored later. Here’s why The Exorcist spider walk scene wasn’t added until much later.
Why The Exorcist Deleted (Then Restored) Regan’s Spider Walk
Reagan’s spider walk wasn’t in the original 1974 The Exorcist because the director wasn’t happy with the outcome using the practical effects available at the time. The Exorcist stairs scene wasn’t performed by Linda Blair, but instead by stuntwoman Ann Miles. There were actually two versions of The Exorcist scene filmed, one closer to the book, in which Regan flips over and crawls at Sharon, as well as displays a snake-like tongue. The other version, which more people are aware of, has Regan with blood in her mouth at the end. Director William Friedkin, against the wishes of writer Blatty, opted to excise the spider walk from the theatrical cut due to several factors.
Mostly, Friedkin felt the spider walk scene was too big a special effect so early in the story, that it undercut the impact of Chris MacNeil having just learned of Burke Dennings’ death, and that the wires used to make the stunt work were too noticeable and hurt the effect. In 2000, Friedkin put together an extended director’s cut of The Exorcist originally subtitled “The Version You’ve Never Seen.” In this cut, director William Friedkin reinserted the bloody version of the spider walk, using CGI to erase the wires, and remastering the footage to fit with the rest of the film, much to Blatty’s delight.
While many fans were aware of The Exorcist stairs scene, and it had been included as a deleted scene on a prior DVD release, seeing it cleaned up and put back into the film proper enabled many to see it in a new light, and it’s become a favorite sequence of many since. Interestingly though, some fans feel its inclusion creates a plot hole, as if Regan can leave her room and attack at any time, why doesn’t she do that? It’s a fair criticism, but one most seem willing to overlook.
When Is The Spider Walk Scene In The Exorcist
The Exorcist stairs scene with the Pazuzu possession happens in the early stages of Regan’s possession, between her mother receiving the news of Burke’s death and Regan’s appointment with a therapist. Chris comes home to Sharon and begins arguing with her over the fact that she left Regan alone to go pick up Thorazine. Sharon remarks that she left Regan with Burke, but apologizes nonetheless. It’s at that point that Chuck shows up at the house and informs Chris of Burke’s death.
Chris understandably doesn’t react well, but while the adults have their backs turned, Regan comes spider-walking down the stairs with her tongue flicking in and out. Chuck leaves before he can see Regan, who then makes a bee-line for Sharon before Chris is able to stop her. The scene then fades out to Regan’s visit with the therapist. Surprisingly based on a true story, The Exorcist stairs scene was finally debuted to audiences during a theatrical re-release in 2000. The Exorcist spider walk can also be seen in the director’s cut version of the film, but not in a standard cut of the movie.
The Exorcist Spider Walk Scene Changes The Entire Movie
It’s amazing how one relatively short sequence can change an entire movie, but The Exorcist stairs scene drastically improves the film. Regan’s possession starts out incredibly slow before she turns fully demonic and her appearance shifts. There are a few moments here and there that signal all is not right with the child, such as her interrupting Chris’ party to urinate all over the floor. The Exorcist spider walk scene adds crucial evidence that Regan isn’t unwell, and that her possession is genuine, making her transformation a little less sudden.
In addition, The Exorcist stairs scene ramps up the tension ten-fold. While The Exorcist is often regarded as the greatest horror movie of all time, its pacing does suffer a bit at the beginning of the film. This deleted scene would’ve added more horror in a much-needed space, as well as further convince audiences that Reagan’s affliction is indeed demonic possession. The Exorcist stairs scene is one of the most iconic in the film today, and it’s a wonder that the short clip didn’t make it into the original cut.