When young Regan dawns peculiar supernatural behaviors, such as levitation and prophecy, her mother perilously tries to find help in curing her poor Regan. But the doctors treatments aren’t working and Regan is getting worse. Only until Regan’s mother seeks out a Catholic priest does the true culprit behind her daughters problems come to light. But at a terrifying cost.
This 1973 horror film was written by William Peter Blatty, directed by William Friedkin and starring Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, and Jason Miller. The Exorcist follows the lives of Chris and Regan MacNeil, a mother and child living in Georgetown. When Regan begins to show signs of demon possession her mother seeks the help of a Father Karras from the local Catholic church. What ensues there after is a film sent into horror legend. Even to this day exorcism movies have not been able to come close to the extremity of The Exorcist.
Now I love The Exorcist, however it’s not a film that I watch a great deal. It’s kind of like Braveheart or Schindler’s List. You have to be prepared to sit down and watch an absolutely hardcore film. The tone is somber and nail biting. The room itself is an entity within the movie and is as much a threat to your psyche as Regan is. If you were in the room with Regan you would jump out the window too just to get away from her. If you’re looking for a sense of humor or just a fun popcorn flick then this isn’t it. It will make you puke that popcorn up so fast.
I have to be honest, The Exorcist might be the scariest horror film ever made but it’s also the most misunderstood horror film. When I say misunderstood I am implying a critique at the “fan-boy” crowd. The ones that only see this film as an amazing display of horrific imagery and tone. Although their excitement for the gore is on point, I believe they miss the bigger picture. It’s like those people that only see Jurassic Park as sci-fi action film and forget the message behind the responsibilities of scientific power and the control of that power.
You see The Exorcist is more than a gruesome story. Like most horror films there is a subversive directive that has a far deeper meaning. We follow Chris and her possessed daughter throughout the film yet the bigger picture is our own Father Karras and his battle of losing his faith in God. Karras is in a turbulent time of his Christian life due to his mothers death. Even when asked to inspect Regan by Chris, Karras approaches his first encounter with the possessed girl as a psychiatrist and in no way a man of faith. Even in complete dialogue with the demon, Karras is in a mode of mockery and doubt. Thinking it’s all a breakdown of Regan’s psychosis.
The emphasis of Karras is the main subject of the film. Regan is merely the vehicle that keeps the story moving moving. She’s kind of like Mad Max when I think about it! Eventually Karras teams up with Merrin (a man of true faith) and they both battle the demon. Karras eventually breaks and offers himself to the demon in order to save Regan. Thus the demon possessing Karras and plunging himself out a window to his death. Yet before he dies he renews his faith in God. Thus saving himself and Regan at the same time.
It’s this theme of rekindled faith that makes me appreciate the movie far more than a gore fest. Although I’m not against the gore and horror element. It’s superb cringe worthy awesomeness. But I think it’s just a good thing to see beyond the easy depictions. It might be the only real good “Christian” movie that has been made. It doesn’t have terrible Kirk Cameron acting and it doesn’t have a sappy annoying story.
I can’t even get passed the idea that Linda Blair was only 14 years old when cast for this movie. How do you tell a sweet little girl how to prepare for a roll like this.
“Listen Linda baby, you’re gonna be possessed by a demon and you’re gonna throw up green puke and spin your head around. At certain times you need to freak out on a bed and jab a cross into yourself! Do you think you can do this for me love!?” – Director
“Oh yes Mr. Friedkin, I’ve been planning this my entire life. It’s every young girls dream to do a film like this.” – Linda
“I love the spirit, really love it! OK EVERYONE little Linda is ready. Lights camera NOW POSSESS ME!” – Director
With all hilarity aside, you have to give props to Linda and the make up artist Dick Smith for the possessed Regan effects. She is so believably scary in this film that her imagery haunts us still to this day. The cuts and swollen features on Regans face look absolutely amazing and she only gets worse and worse as the movie goes on.
Another terrifying aspect of the film is the demon Pazuzu. Throughout the film there is a build up of the final battle between Father Karras and Father Merrin and this evil spirit. The entire beginning of the film opens with Father Merrin’s expedition in Iraq. He encounters a Pazuzu relic and it foreshadows the looming fight. The face of Pazuzu makes appearances throughout the movie in quick single frame shots. To me this is the scariest part of the film and I dread that face.
In the inevitable end The Exorcist is a one of a kind film. Meaning know one has been able to come close to it. At least on the overly serious level. The Exorcist is so good that even it’s sequels and modern prequels have fallen flat at recreating or “up-ing” the intriguing quality of the first. I hope everyone can watch this film and enjoy not only the horror it brings but also the great heroes journey.