The Exorcist

So, in light of the fact that I recently saw and reviewed Paranormal Activity, I thought I'd go ahead and watch the supposed 'mac daddy' of horror cinema - William Friedkin's 1973 The Exorcist. We've all heard the stories of it being the scariest movie ever, all heard the parodies, know the basic concept, etc etc, all that jazz. However, does the film hold up to its hype and long, long legacy in cinema?

You bet it does.

For those unfamiliar with the film, though, I'll go ahead and lay down the basic plot. The film centers around two main protagonists, Father Damien Karras - a Catholic priest beginning to doubt his faith - and Regan MacNeil - the young daughter of a small-time actress and who eventually becomes afflicted by a demon of unknown origin. While the two people have very different stories and problems, the protagonists are ultimately brought together after the demon, which Regan at first refers to as Captain Howdy, possesses her body.

While the actual exorcism doesn't occur until very late into the film, we're given a very interesting character-driven drama with elements of horror attached to it. This is a brilliant move on the film's part, as we get to learn about and know the characters presented while facing the unnerving nature of the demon that has been unleashed. Personally, I found Damien's story to actually be the more interesting of the two. His doubt in faith, wondering whether God exists, and if religion still has a place in the world are all interesting facets of his story, which are only pushed to the max after his mother dies early on.

Besides the wonderful performances and thrilling story, the cinematography of the film is delightfully symbolic and well-shot. The first 45 minutes or so have the film feel like a beautiful painting of sorts, despite the small problems each of protagonists face. However, once the possession of Regan begins, the way the film is shot begins to change very slowly. Gone are the colorful shots of parks or the outdoors, as they have now been replaced with darker, grittier, and more claustrophobic shots with the rest of the film almost feeling like a fast-paced Stanley Kubrick film.

Normally, I'm of the opinion that what you don't see in a film is truly more frightening than what you do see ala Jaws, Blair Witch, etc. I detest when the monster is shown if only for the fact that any wonder about the creature is gone, and also because the possibility of it turning into a 'typical' slasher or monster movie has grown. The Exorcist, however, has managed to mix both of these vastly different types of horror into one sweet, disturbing mix. While we never fully see the demon, save very brief glimpses with the most notable one occurring during Damien's dream sequence, we know its presence is there because of the in-your-face horror of Regan.

Speaking of which, this film is quite possibly the scariest I've ever seen before. Not because of some lame, loud, pop-horror "BOO!" sequences, but because of how unnerving the film is. For instance, one of the more grotesque parts of the film involves the possessed Regan using a crucifix to masturbate, all the while exclaiming horrible blasphemies. That scene alone is just so utterly revolting, utterly horrific - you just don't know what to say or think. You just know that evil is indeed present in that freaking little girl.

As few as there are, there are some complaints to be made. First, the film drags on the part right before the actual exorcism but after Damien has attempted to "cure" Regan's possession. The film just slows to a grinding halt, leaving us only wondering when they'll finally decide to bring the expert, Father Merrin, in like Regan's mother has been trying to do for nearly half the film. This next one is more of an annoyance, but...Regan's mother uses this same line of dialogue - "(insert something here), for God's/Christ's sake!" - so many times during this movie. So. Many. Times. I couldn't help but wonder if the script actually had her say that all the time, or if the actress just thought it'd fit in a religious film or something.

The Exorcist delivers a great story, interesting characters, plenty of scares, and it's easy to see why this movie is considered one of the best films the horror genre has to offer.

9/10 - Fantastic





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zombii said...
Mar. 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm
Great review. Just one question though, did you watch the newly remastered version with the randomly inserted demon aces or the original cut?
 
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