When I first started watching horror films, The Exorcist (1973) is the one film that everyone told me to avoid. This built-up hype surrounding it that made me fearful. What if I did not like this film that everyone else adored? What if the film really scared me so bad that I was not able to sleep? All these little nagging fears and thoughts in my head. One day I finally bit the bullet and decided that these fears would not win. As I walked into the video store that afternoon, straight to the horror section I went. With such a classic piece of cinema locating the feature was not difficult at all. Soon getting in line was the only thing standing between me and the movie.
As I got home that afternoon the only thing I knew is that I would only view the film in day light hours. There would be no exploring this film in a dark room. Most people who have seen the film can understand this thought process. This is also one of the few films that I still will not watch late at night. While the graphics are not all the impressive to today’s standards, the film itself is still rather beyond frightening. The film also provides the pea soup scene so famously spoofed in most Halloween specials.
To make things worse they released a collector’s DVD with additional scenes dubbed too scary to see in the theater. For some reason or another I waited until that version came out to own the film. Despite owning the film, I still cannot make myself watch the copy I own often. While it seems to start off really slow at first when it picks up, it truly picks up and takes one for an extreme thrill ride. And just when one thinks the fear goes away, they read the book. The expanded scenes still remain ingrained in my mind almost two years later.
The beginning of the film, which tends to go on longer than it should despite providing backstory, started with an archaeological dig in Iraq by Jesuit priest, Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow). Upon the dig for rare relics, he discovers a small statue. The statue is of the demon Pazuzu. What is an odd find. To make this find even stranger, the demon juxtaposes with a modern-day St. Joseph medal. Alongside a series of omen alerts, Merrin realizes that a confrontation with something powerful and evil will have to take place sometime soon.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) realizes that something is horribly wrong with her daughter, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). She is displaying dangerous behaviors for a twelve year old. She also realizes that Regan’s physical attributes are starting to change as well. Around the same time, a young priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller), struggles with his faith after the death of his mother. Soon after many psychiatrists visits, Chris realizes that she has to get some form of answers and finds herself begging Father Karras to come over and look at her daughter. When he agrees, he only agrees to do so as a psychiatrist, but soon realizes that something far more demonic is at play.
Determined to discover a cure for Regan, Karras find himself asking permission to perform an exorcism on the girl that he feels she desperately needs. With the arrival of Father Merrin back in the states, the two arrive at the house determined to cure the young girl of her possession and make sure she gets back to a normal life. With the power of the lord on their side and determination on their side will they be able to save Regan from the troubled soul that has taken over her very being? One can only hope.
Linda Blair steals the show leaving me to admit that this is one of those films where I wonder how a child gets cast in such a role. In my head it goes something like the following: By the way we need your daughter to play someone who gets possessed by a demonic spirit, who is more than likely the Devil, and other various weird things while under possession. To be able to morph from one extreme of such a sweet and caring little girl to a possessed child within the feature is unbelievably outstanding.
Then of course Burstyn’s role deserves praise as well. The woman goes through the wringer as Regan’s mother. For one, she has to debate the fact her daughter might be possession AND that her daughter will never be the same little girl she loves ever again. She also must attain help for Regan so she can start living her life.
Miller ultimately ends up playing my favorite character though. I think more often than not when someone loses someone that close to them, as he does in the film, it is easier sometimes to question one’s fate than deal with what is going on at the time. This might not last long, but to question everything around someone I find normal. To find oneself throwing themselves into work is also normal. Anything to take their mind off losing that person must occur. One will find it difficult not to admire his character by the end of the feature.
The Exorcist is a true horror gem. The Exorcist makes a viewer not to want to relive numerous sequences nor view at night. Plenty of people who wonder why this would be a film anyone would want to own, yet alone watch. The answer is rather simple. We adore the frights and monsters that go bump at night. Not scared as in the I almost got into a car wreck scared, but scared knowing everything will ultimately work out.
Plus The Exorcist makes one think. What would one do to help another person out? How far would one go for someone that he or she barely knows? The film also brings into question the power of fate. When one truly believes in something that person can do just about anything. What makes The Exorcist a feature worth watching today is that not once do we ever truly doubt what we are watching in the first place. For the duration of the feature we are transported into a hellish world that for some reason or another we cannot stop watching.
In many ways the best way to describe one’s viewing of The Exorcist is the same as when one sees a car wreck on the side of the road. For some reason a person will rubber neck and go to great lengths to see what has occurred. However, when that same person realizes something truly horrifying happening we still somehow cannot manage to look away until we have passed the location and find ourselves traveling further down the road. And even then we find ourselves not able to stop thinking about said wreck for a long time to come.