The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist, 1973; directed by William Friedkin; starring  Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Jason Merrin

I love the fall, I love October, and I love watching horror films in the month of October.  But truth be told, I don’t really get very scared watching them.  Even after 30 days of watching horror movie after horror movie, while there have been times when I’ve gone to bed late at night alone and the thought has crossed my mind “I wonder what’s out there” I still don’t really get afraid.  For many people, I suspect, this is the case as well.

The Exorcist is, for many people, a film that does make people afraid.  It is the one film my girl, who loves watching the horror films at least as much a I do, refuses to watch.  Oh she saw it twice; once when she was 9.  It scared the bejesus out of her.  And then, when it was reissued in theaters while she was an adult, she went to see it again. She thought “now that I’m an adult it won’t scare me.”

Well, she refuses to watch it ever again.  Such is the power of The Exorcist which was released on December 26, 1973.  The legend is that movie freaked out in theaters during the original release.  Screaming, fainting and even vomiting were alleged to have occurred.  The Onion’s AV Club even ran an article about the initial reactions a while back.

Here’s the thing about The Exorcist – horror film or not, it’s a masterful film from top to bottom.  From Ellen Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil as the desperate single mother trying to figure out what is afflicting her daughter, to Jason Miller’s Father Karras who has very personal reasons for wanting to help the MacNeils, to veteran Max Von Sydow to Linda Blair’s perhaps too beyond her years performance (given her subsequent troubles) as 12 year old possession victim Regan, the acting is nothing short of fantastic.  William Peter Blatty’s script, from his own novel, is a masterclass of build and suspense, with economical storytelling.   And William Friedkin, fresh off of directing The French Connection, ties it all together with his direction.  The famous poster image, which Pop Teez founder and mastermind Jacob Saahario captures with his accompanying image for this post, is directly taken from an amazingly artful shot of Von Sydow’s Father Merrin arriving at the MacNeil’s Georgetown residence to perform the exorcism. And that is only one of many striking images the film presents.

And as we’ve mentioned before in our Poptoberfest Movie Recommendations, the special effects are very effective.  In fact they make us long for more practical effects in today’s films, as opposed to the modern tendency to use CGI to handle all special effects.  At some point here at Pop Teez we will discuss George Miller’s masterful Mad Max: Fury Road and how it’s combination of practical and CGI effects make for some amazing viewing.

We haven’t really covered any of the plot of The Exorcist here, but that’s because it’s famous enough that you shouldn’t need any of that to entice you to watch it if you’ve never seen it… And if you’ve never seen it, the less you know going in, the better. In short, this 43 year old film still has the capacity to shock and freak folks out and deserves all the reverence it still gets.  I’m hoping, if not this year, soon I can get my girl to watch it again with me.

Dr. Vorhees