Anthony's Film Review
The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist is undoubtedly one of the scariest horror films ever made...
The 1973 horror movie The Exorcist is based on the 1971 novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty. It's one of the few horror novels I've actually read, but I will admit that it was very frightening and also enjoyable because of it. It certainly stuck in my mind because of its very graphic content that would no doubt offend censors and devout followers of religion. A story like this could certainly work just as well as a movie. I will say right now that I loved the movie just as much as the book, because William Peter Blatty is also the writer for the film, converting his own novel into a screenplay (leaving out or toning down a bit of the novel's graphic content, but otherwise keeping much of it in).
As in the novel, the movie begins with a prologue in Northern Iraq that foreshadows the presence of an ancient demonic spirit. Afterwards, the film follows two sets of characters in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC: actress Chris MacNeil (played by Ellen Burstyn) with her 12-year-old daughter Regan (played by Linda Blair), and Damien Karras (played by Jason Miller) who is both a priest and a psychiatrist. Much of the first fourth of the movie follows the lives of these characters. Chris is working on a film, Regan is like any other girl her age, and Karras questions his own faith.
Obviously, this is one of those stories that moves along in a gradual manner. That includes the core plot of this horror story about demonic possession. At first, the only thing that is wrong is that Regan is sick with various symptoms. But something is definitely going on when doctors diagnose a neurological disorder and their prescribed medications do nothing for the young girl. In fact, despite those medications, Regan exhibits even more disturbing phenomena, such as violent shaking, speaking in a sickening male voice, telekinesis, and bloody self-mutilation with a crucifix (which is no doubt the most shocking part of the story).
There's definitely one good reason for presenting this horror story in a methodical manner. The horror images are very disturbing to many, especially those who are faint of heart (and probably wouldn't want to see a horror movie like this in the first place). It would be too much for anyone if the film just throws one scary image after another for a long time. By having the scary images spaced out and placing non-horror drama scenes in between, the audience gets plenty of breathing room before seeing another horrific image. Also, the drama portion of The Exorcist provides some extra stuff of interest, like dialogue between Karras and the spirit within Regan and Church criteria for an exorcism.
With that, the film reaches a climax that is definitely intense. Father Karras and another priest named Father Merrin (played by Max von Sydow) prepare to perform an exorcism of Regan. At this point, Regan is almost unrecognizable in her possessed state. The two priests and Regan engage in a duel of good versus evil. While Karras and Merrin recite powerful words from their holy book, Regan is resisting with blasphemous words and telekinesis that is violent to the point of shaking the entire room. Basically, it's the power of faith against the power of sin, a true battle of spirits.
The Exorcist really is an achievement in the genre of horror films. It's a scary piece of work with shocking images that dare to push the boundaries of horror. It's also, to a certain degree, thought-provoking with the exploration of faith itself and even the subtle connections between psychiatry and spirituality. As long as you can stomach the shocking content, this is a horror film that you won't forget. I give credit to director William Friedkin for bringing this to the screen, not to mention William Peter Blatty who wrote this remarkable story in both literary and cinematic forms.
For more information about The Exorcist, visit the Internet Movie Database.