The Exorcist (1973)


The one that started it all, and has spawned incredibly crappy (mostly Italian) knock-offs.

Actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) has a daughter named Regan (Linda Blair) that seems to be ill and is having a lot of weird things go on to her and her body. Doctors say it’s a problem with her brain, while others like, priest Damien Karras (Jason Miller) say it’s the devil itself. Bring in the holy water everybody!

It’s been so long since I have seen this film and still after all of this time, it is still freaky as hell. There is something about William Friedkin‘s direction that just works because it starts off slow and builds up and up and up and up until we finally get to where we’ve wanted to the whole time, and we can’t even grasp what we’ve just been through. There are plenty of scares to choose from here but it’s not like Friedkin just throws them in-your-face so you can jump, no, it’s actually more about the chilling atmosphere that we are surrounded by in this house and it’s more about what we think we’re going to expect rather than seeing everything just go down.

Now don’t get me wrong here people, you do see a lot the “action” go down but it’s not as frequent as you would expect which makes it even scarier. I couldn’t help but know that every time somebody went into that room, they were not going to come out alive and that whatever went down in there was not going to be good. There are a lot of cool special effects/stunt scenes that were way ahead of their time and they add so much more to all of the freakishness that practically takes over this film.

What’s even better about this film is what goes on when the scares aren’t happening and we start to focus on the story. Usually with horror films, the director just wants to focus on getting us freaked the hell out and forgetting about the plot, writing, or even acting for that matter but with ‘The Exorcist’, that is simply not the case. The story about the priest having a “faith problem” has been done a million times but this one was the first to really tackle that issue and it’s gripping along with the story of the mother trying to get her daughter back. This builds up for a very long time in the beginning of the flick and it gives us time to actually care for these characters and get behind them once the funky ish starts to go down. It’s also cool to see a flick about exorcisms that don’t just look at the girl acting strange and go right away, “oh look she’s possessed, call up the priest”. Instead the film shows how doctors say that it’s a brain issue or the detective says that its just something weird, and we know what it is but to see others react to what’s happening in a different way was pretty cool to see.

The film is over 38 years old and it still shocks, scares, and chills but there are some moments where it’s dated in ways. The parts where Regan is yelling off obscenities at everybody that comes in and tries to eff with her is pretty laughable considering the way she says everything with this dark and demonic voice that the film sometimes, and sometimes doesn’t give her. Maybe back in 1973 it was incredibly shocking to see and hear, but in the year 2011 you could probably watch the same thing on the 6 o’clock news.

The cast for this flick is also excellent. Ellen Burstyn is pretty believable as the mother/actress and she shows a lot of great moments where she is just downright tired of dealing with everybody’s shit telling her that her daughter is fine; Jason Miller is also great as Damien (great name for a priest, right?) and adds a lot to the scenes where he and the devil are just facing off mono-e-mono; and Max von Sydow isn’t in this flick just as much but he’s still equally as boss as everybody else who actually is in this film and it’s just awesome when he shows up in the end for the final show-down considering that he adds so much more.

Linda Blair is very good in her role as Regan considering she had to quite a lot for this role and it was more about being a physical performance rather than just being able to yell potty language. Blair is freaky especially considering that when she isn’t obsessed she’s so bubbly which makes it even scarier. It’s a shame that this chick doesn’t do as much now but to be honest, I’m not surprised that nobody could take her as anybody else except for that chick who vomited on Max von Sydow. Poor girl.

Consensus: The Exorcist still works all of these years later because of the atmosphere that Friedkin creates, the things that actually happens when the scares aren’t happening, and the acting that elevates this flick upon any other horror film that I’ve seen recently. Definitely deserved that Best Picture win, even though ‘The Sting’ is a great film in its own right too.

9/10=Full Price!!

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27 comments

  1. It’s interesting that the elements which seem the most inhumane and got the biggest reactions from audiences when the film was first released were the medical test sequences. It almost seemed like a relief when the action went back to Regan’s bedroom, as if the medical footage was too grounded in reality for comfort.

  2. I recall being disappointed by it when it was re-released on cinema a while back. Didn’t help that much of the profanity spoken by the possessed Regan was met with laughter by the audience. I found bits scary, but guess I need to sit and watch it in the right surroundings (like a dark room, on my own) to really appreciate it.

    • It’s not as scary as it maybe was way back when but there are still some terribly chilling moments here that eff with your head. Thanks Craig!

  3. A fair review, Dan. I’d be keen to hear your opinion of the original theatrical version over the more recent “version you’ve never seen” – a version we now all have! Personally, I found the recent re-release to actually increase the terror for the viewier, while adding extra dimension to the characters. Still, in any of the iterations this film is seen as, The Exorcist is a stunning achivement in horror.

  4. Yeah, this was and still remains such an iconic film. I wouldn’t call it particularly frightening or spooky (I last saw this film quite sometime back, but I do remember it reasonably well). What really made this film worth noting for me was the graphic and disturbing imagery that it was filled with. And perhaps the most memorable aspect about the film was the terrific atmosphere that was created thanks in large parts to great photography – I’m glad that you made special mention about that while nicely summing up this film.

  5. I like horror films and I watch them all the time, but this one just didn’t do anything for me. I know it’s supposed to be a classic, but it wasn’t very good in my eyes. There were only two scenes that I actually liked in the entire movie.

  6. I didn’t really find this film that scary. I think it comes down to how much you believe or don’t believe in the Devil and demonic possession. This was supposedly based on true events, but I just found myself a little amused much of the time. I was actually more interested in the priest’s story than I was the girl’s. For what it’s worth: I saw the “extended edition” that had the spider walk down the stairs in it. Just to clarify: I still think it’s a good movie.

    • It’s a good one and I thought both stories were interesting as hell, but his mostly because it’s a very true and genuine story that is easy to believe in. Thanks Chip!

  7. The strength of this film is definitely its characters and story. Friedkin gets you really invested in all of them and does a great job building tension. I wish I had seen it when I was younger, because when I finally watched it for the first time last Halloween, I didn’t find it terribly scary. I was slightly disappointed.

  8. Yeah, “The Sting” is great, but damn it’s a close call between the two. Glad to see you giving this movie it’s props man. Still kicking ass after all these years and totally worthy of a 9.5

    As you point out, a lot of that goes to Friedkin who does a masterful job. Phenomenal movie!

  9. For me, the best horror film ever made. It is great that The Exorcist manages to bring such quality both technically, in its acting and its characters and script, to a genre not known for such depth. A true masterpiece.

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