Monday, October 31, 2011

Favourite Halloween Movies: The Exorcist

I thought it'd be fun to write about some of my favourite horror films in the days leading up to Halloween. 
Third on my list ...The Exorcist (1973).
Directed By: William Friedkin 
Based on the Novel By: William Peter BlattyStarring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Linda Blair 

Often credited as the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist manages to remain just as terrifying as it was when it was first released. Considering most horror films don't necessarily age well, The Exorcist still manages to pull in new generations of fans who find it legitimately unsettling. 

Why I Love It: The story of the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) may have too slow of a plot build for some audiences (it takes nearly 45 minutes for the film to truly get underway); however, it sets up the relationship between young Regan and her mother (Ellen Burstyn) as a loving one that will face the ultimate test when Regan is brutally taken over by an unseen demon. With its viscerally shocking scenes of possession and religious confrontations, The Exorcist ingrained itself into popular culture from the moment of its initial release. 

The films is stylishly atmospheric and contains some of the most memorable scenes in not only the horror genre, but in film overall -- the most iconic being the shot of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) silently emerging from a taxi to stand in the night, surrounded in mist, in front of the MacNeil house as he mentally prepares to face-off with the demon inhabiting Regan. The demon causes the once-polite girl to swear, spit, vomit and growl in a horrifyingly inhuman voice -- the moments when Regan is able to come through and ask for help before being taken over once again are unsettling in their portrayal of a young girl completely vulnerable to a terrifying supernatural situation. 

It's the religious and spiritual themes that make the movie more than just your average horror film. Villains like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers is one thing; the notion of an evil spirit inhabiting the body of a good and innocent girl is something entirely different. The words coming out in the demon's voice and the physical actions it forces Regan to take are all the more jarring because she's still a young child. While some (audiences and critics alike) have accused the film of religious exploitation over the years, The Exorcist remains a powerful horror film with jarring imagery of demonic possession while delving into such issues as a crisis of faith. 

Combined with Jack Nitzsche's chilling score and some of the most iconic scenes in film, The Exoricst was controversial when it was first released and it raised the bar for the horror genre. Few have been able to match its power to unsettle and terrify.

Favourite Scene: 
Here's a pretty good video of the five scariest scenes from the film. Embedding wasn't allowed, but you can VIEW IT HERE.


  1. Totally agree, has lost none of its power and has never been matched for sheer terror.

  2. This is hilarious because this is to play here on NZ telly late this coming Sunday night!!!! I must catch it again because it has been many many years since I last watched it.
    You now my thoughts on this film, suffice to say it has never been beaten.

  3. @pturner1010: Exactly. I know some younger people viewing it for the first time find it a little boring but I think it still terrifies the majority of people!

  4. @Brent: I think that's a good thing that you haven't seen it in a few years! It will make a lot of the parts seem new again. That's what happened with me last weekend when I re-watched The Shining for the first time in about three years.

  5. It is slow, I remember watching it for the first time as a young 'un and wondering what the hell all of the fuss was about but once it gets started with the scary stuff, it does not hold back. Shocking and terrifying even by todays standards.

  6. Same here. I was 11 or 12 when I first saw it and I remember my friend and I almost turned it off because of the slow start! And, agreed. Still shocking today.

  7. God I enjoyed watching this again!! It creeped me out, especially the spider walk down the stairs. What a great film even outside of genre. The thing is I know it was controversial on release but I couldn't anything about that side of things after a quick 'net search.
    But I will tell you this, imagine what it must have been like to see this in a cinema in 1973!! I know people who did! There have been very, very few films that have caused such a ripple as The Exorcist ( Pyscho would qualify ) and as you say, it still resonates today with new followers.