Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist. Has Anyone Not Seen It?

Since the debut of The Exorcist in 1973 few films in the horror genre have received so much attention or acclaim.

Two academy awards in 1974, best screenplay based on another medium (William Peter Blatty) and best sound (Robert Knudson, Christopher Newman), as well as 12 other awards and 14 nominations demonstrate the notoriety that The Exorcist has received for everything from Directing to sound to acting to the whole package.

I can remember when The Exorcist became known to me. Myu parents were reminising about all the havoc it caused it the 70's. “Three ambulances are required outside of every theater where the movie is showing”, they said. “People have heart attacks and die from the terror of it all” they continued. Yes, this flick caused quite a stir.

I can also remember why they said it was so scary…”I believe something like this could really happen” said my mother about this tale of demonic possession.

The Exorcist - Regan dualityFor those who don’t know, the story is very simple. The sweet young daughter (Linda Blair) of a successful actress suddenly takes ill. Her sickness progresses to the point where ole mom (Ellen Burstyn) becomes convinced that her daughter has been possessed by evil spirits. Perhaps the fact that daughter Regan speaks in strange spectral voices and floats through the air was her first clue.

A young priest whom is questioning his faith (Jason Miller) is convinced to work with a church elder to exorcise the demon. All hell breaks loose (so to speak).

There are several factors that come together to make this film such a masterpiece. Well, ALL of the factors came together to make this a masterpiece really. Director William Friedkin interpreted the story written by William Peter Blatty (novel and the screenplay) and, through the support of superb acting, music, effects and cinematography, created an experiential trek through the terrifying unknown that stands up just as brilliantly today as it ever did.

The Exorcist - Regan floating above bedThe addition of the subliminal elements of screen flashes and bees buzzing in the background help to create a shroud of fear and uncertainty that persists even when the overt action on the screen wouldn’t seem to cause it. Panic, fear, uneasiness, doubt and terror are all emotions that one can expect to experience while watching The Exorcist.

The only real loser in all this was actress Linda Blair. Blair played the possessed girl Regan at the tender age of 14. This was only the third credited role for this young actress, and it catapulted her to fame.

It also pigeon-holed Blair as the possessed Regan in the eyes of casting directors and movie-goers and prevented her from being taken seriously in any other role throughout her professional career. Well, it was either The Exorcist that caused her difficulties at getting other roles to develop as an actress, or the fact that she really couldn’t act once she passed puberty…not sure which one.

The Exorcist - Regan the spider girl
In any case, Blair did make some attempts to do other things as an actress (I could find 39 movie credits since The Exorcist) but it seems that each one either exploited her persona as the possessed Regan, or capitalized on the fact that Regan acted a bit sluttish when she was controlled by evil forces by portraying her as sleazy.

Overall, it’s hard to say if we would even know her name today had it not been for The Exorcist, so did the movie ruin her career, or make it? You be the judge.

The Exorcist spinning head with cross
The plight of poor Linda Blair does not detract from the quality of what is arguably the best horror movie of all time though. This is one of those horror flicks that you can watch again and again, and be scared each time.

The themes have been debated and analyzed, and The Exorcist appeals not only to those that want to be scared, but also to those who are looking for moviemaking elements that elevate a film above the pack.

The Exorcist - silhouette of demonIf you have seen this film then you’ve likely seen it multiple times, and you don’t need me to tell you that you should watch it again because it’s already in your plan. If you haven’t seen it…watch at your own risk. This one will have an affect on you.

Possibly my fave horror flick of all time.....9.7/10

1 comment:

  1. I've only ever seen 'The Exorcist' when it came on tv, and I can't remember seeing her do the crab walking stairs thing. I've thought about this before--is that scene like not shown in the tv version?! I onder--maybe I've just walked out of the room each time at the right moment to miss it. This movie freaked me out, but when I watched the "making of" show, if scared me more. There seems to be a curse that follows the movie--I need to look back at all that-it was craziness.
    AND- "the making of" show showed how the director like cranked down the air to like freezing to get REAL steam from her breathe, and he had her in this harness that threw her back against the bed and stuff super violently. He wanted everything to be authentic, and THAT's a pretty intense thing to do with a demon posession- ya know!?!