The Exorcist will make you run straight to the nearest church!
Have you ever wondered if demons walk among us? William Friedkin shows the horrific possibility of demonic possession in his iconic film The Exorcist (1973), based on the book by William Peter Blatty. I chose to watch it for my classic-horror-movies marathon, and I’ve never been happier to be disgusted and scared to death. This award-winning masterpiece has been around for so long that I’m sure everyone, even a horror newbie like myself, knows exactly what it’s about… but no spoilers can prepare you for the most disturbing experience of your life.
The Exorcist opens with an ominous tone as Lankaster Merrin (Max von Sydow), a Catholic priest on an archeological trip in Iraq, goes through a series of bizarre events and finds a figurine of what could be an unknown demonic entity or the Devil himself. On the other side of the world, famous actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) and 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair) relocate to a temporary townhome in Washington DC, where strange noises start to come from the attic, and the daughter’s behavior becomes more and more demonic after an ignorant encounter with a Ouija board. And right on campus where McNeil is filming her next movie, is Damian Karras (Jason Miller), a Greek-American priest who is going through a crisis of faith. Seemingly the three stories have no correlation, until Regan’s situation worsens… She’s violent and lewd, speaks in different tongues, needs to be restrained to her bed, and is displaying terrifying supernatural abilities. When doctors and science fail to help, Chris is forced to turn to religion, to fathers Karras and Merrin, for the most bloodcurdling exorcism Hollywood has ever seen.
Frighteningly real in 1973, as well as 2021. Although some suspension of disbelief is required because of the outdated technology, and probably no-one will react as strongly as the moviegoers who fainted in the premiere, there is no denying that the visual effects and the make-up of The Exorcist stood the test of time. A bed that shakes as if it were a haunted roller coaster, supernatural levitation, putrid green vomit, a horrifyingly calm head spin, and the famous mutilated face of Regan will keep you up at night for days.
It is a slow-burn story with a hasty ending, but that’s where the negative aspects end. The Exorcist ticks a lot of the boxes of what I usually like in horror movies: the visual effects and make-up executed to perfection, justified gore and violence, and the smart use of profanity, in this case to effectively demonstrate the deep depravity of the demon. It has a great pay off to the building suspense, subliminal images and sounds to affect the audience unconsciously, interesting backstories, and thought-provoking themes like the clash between science and faith to support the plot. The Exorcist also has a soundtrack that takes the visuals to the next level. All of this comes together to make the spectator feel unsettled, and there lies the secret for the success of this film.
If you want a movie that shocks and disgusts you from start to finish, watch The Exorcist. But before you do – turn the lights off, grab a bowl of popcorn, and look up your nearest church… because you’ll be running straight to it in no time.
Check out this trailer for the original film, “The Exorcist!”