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[R.I.P.] ‘The Exorcist’ Special Effects Master Marcel Vercoutere

Marcel Vercoutere, who built the life-sized animatronic robot for Linda Blair’s possessed Regan in The Exorcist has died at the age of 87. Many of us weren’t alive at the time of the film’s release and even less of us were of the age to see it in a theater, but by all accounts the moment that robot’s head spun around was a huge pop culture “moment.” No one had seen anything like that before, and Vercoutere’s work still holds up today.

Whenever we cover a possession movie here on BD, everyone (including me) acknowledges that it’s sort of amazing how nothing in the past 40 years has even come close to touching The Exorcist in terms of impact. Vercoutere was a huge part of that.

Cinematographer Owen Roizman told the LA Times, “ He had made this unbelievable robot and everything about it worked — it almost had facial expressions. I was standing there looking at it and I said, ‘You know what, we forgot something. We don’t have any breath coming out.’ Marcel just said, ‘I’ll deal with that.’ He was so calm. And before you know it … the dummy had breath.

Head inside to see the robot 40 years later!

Pic courtesy of Amity Photos.

Marcel Vercoutere (in back) on set with William Friedkin



  • Aaron Emery

    Of all subgenres, exorcism films are the most often compared to ‘The Exorcist’ the leading film of its kind. More so than say, slashers compared to ‘Halloween’ or shark flicks compared to ‘Jaws’. I believe that it’s is because the genre is so limited that it’s hard not to redo things that have already been done, and lets face it modern exorcism films always fail at recreating the effects of this masterpiece.
    I try to avoid watching the directors cut because many of the changes ruin the pacing of the film, but the spider walk is a great example (It feels so damn out of place in the director’s cut, unfortunately). Look at the work that was done in that piece and compare it to ‘The Unborn’ (I think it was that one) which tried the same thing with “modern” technology (CGI) and failed miserably. The FX in this film are so flawless that all these years later I can’t think of one thing to improve them. RIP.

  • ThunderDragoon


  • Darkness69

    Truly amazing work. R.I.P.

  • godmonster

    I must be the odd visitor here. I saw “The Exorcist” in the theater. I was thirteen. I saw it with my folks and honestly it didn’t scare me that much. It was shocking, but not frightening. I think it’s a good movie, but “The Other” scared me a lot more.

  • Evan3

    Truly a loss. I am thankful for his contributions to horror!

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