Fargo's Moving Picture Extravaganza! The Exorcist

Here be mild spoilers for The Exorcist.

I couldn't think of a witty or interesting introduction for this one. The Exorcist. Go.

The Exorcist


image

Directed by William Friedkin and written by the original author of the novel William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist was released in 1973 to extremely mixed reaction in the US. Reviews ranged from declaring the film a masterpiece to calling it trash. While some reviewers praised how scary they found the film, its detractors labelled it as grotesque and repugnant. However, the film was still nominated for a host of academy awards, including best picture and three acting nominations. It even won the award for best adapted screenplay, and today the film sits at #3 on the American Film Institute's top 100 most thrilling movies, just behind Jaws and Psycho. So, does The Exorcist deserve the praise it has garnered, or were its detractors 37 years ago onto something?

The Exorcist takes place in Georgetown, and focuses on three main characters. The first two are Chris MacNeil and her daughter Regan, played by Ellyn Burstyn and Linda Blair respectively. Chris is filming a movie in Georgetown, and it is eluded to that she is estranged from her husband. Meanwhile, Regan gradually begins showing signs of emotional problems, with severe mood swings and other instabilities. Chris takes her to a get a series of tests by doctors, who originally just pass it off as a problem with the nerves. Regan gradually gets worse however, and while doctors and psychiatrists are unwilling to consider it anything more than something extremely psychosomatic. Despite this, nothing appears to be effective in treating her, and Regan begins to transform into an almost entirely different being. Eventually, Chris begins to believe Regan is possessed by someone, or more specifically, something.

image

Enter character numero tres: Father Damien Karras, played exceptionally well by Jason Miller. Dealing with his mother's terminal illness and her isolation from the world, Karras begins to doubt his faith as a priest. This is not only a problem due to his priesthood, but also because he serves as a somewhat councillor for other priests who doubt their faith. Karras is probably the deepest character in the film; his conflicts about faith and where they stem from; along with the implication he may have always had a loose grasp on faith in the first place this makes for a quite a detailed and introspective character, and the wonderful performance by Jason Miller just adds to it all.

Now, the characters and acting are of a very high quality, but there is a slight issue with the story. For the first eighty minutes of the two hour running time, the film seems to want to be more mysterious than it actually is. The actual demon that possesses Regan is never explained, and it is even hinted there may be more than one demon inside her. Whatever is inside Regarn refers to itself plainly and bluntly as The Devil, but there are many allusions to the Babylonian demon Pazuzu, most notably the use of imagery and shots of statues resembling Pazuzu itself. In fact, there are many hints that put the demon's identity more firmly with Pazuzu, rather than anything from Christian mythology. Most of these are highly spoilerific though, so if you want to discuss it please leave a post about it. The issue with this vagueness is that there isn't really a tangible connection made between the audience and the true antagonist, which is whatever is possessing Regan. All we have to go by is breadcrumbs that don't really lead anywhere. It doesn't actually bother me all that much, but I can certainly see why some people might take issue with it.

image

As for The Devil vs Pazuzu debate, I far prefer the concept of the demon being Babylonian and ancient in nature rather than the sort of bland, cover-all-evil idea that is The Devil. With a more mysterious demon like Pazuzu it gives the possession a far more otherworldly feel, and it is something that most people will be highly unfamiliar with, as not only is the choice of a Babylonian demon more obscure than something from Christian mythology, but even within the realm of Babylonian mythology Pazuzu is one of the lesser known demonic entities. This mysterious force of evil is something that I love, and it's something that gives a great amount of dread to the film. With The Devil it's almost common knowledge it would be here simply to cause chaos, but with an unknown entity like Pazuzu it feels like the possession could go in so many different directions.

The concept of evil itself is really the focal point of the whole movie, and it is where most of the horror and disturbing elements stem from. The choice of a 12-year old girl isn't something that's for shock value, although shocking it is, but it expresses how evil can taint, morph and manipulate anything, even the most innocent and naive young girl. What adds to this is how gradual and slow the process it is. To begin with, Regan just seems to be acting out, although with more vulgar language than a girl of her age would traditionally use. But each scene she gets a little worse, until she is a complete monster, her face ravaged by scars, her eyes dark yellow and menacing. It's a genuinely frightening transformation, and is done so gradually that the climax, while incredibly simple on paper, is breathtakingly intense. The film is also genuinely disturbing at parts, and it's saying a lot when I can admit a film creeping up on its 40th anniversary disturbed and shocked me about ten times more than any Saw or Hostel. Some of the stuff in The Exorcist will stick with you for a long time, including an infamous scene in which Regan shows the complete incorrect use of a crucifix.

image

The possession of Regan is really the only truly 'scary' thing about The Exorcist, but that's not really a problem. There is still some great cinematography and lighting to be had, and they combine to give the film a very unique style and atmosphere, and one that doesn't look dated to this day. There are a few things that betray its age in terms of camera tricks, such as the crash zooms that were so popular in the seventies, and there are a few odd editing moments, but for the majority it still looks and feels fresh.

If you're a horror fan in general, you've probably already seen The Exorcist. If you haven't, it's something you should see anyway, regardless of whether you come away from it with a negative or positive reaction. It's such a staple for horror films and has influenced so many other films even outside of the genre that I would probably even recommend it to people who enjoy film in general. I certainly can't promise you'll like it; the pacing is very slow and there are some scenes that may put a bad taste in people's mouth, but for me, The Exorcist, with fantastic acting and writing, surpasses just being a great horror film, but instead is simply a great film.

There is still some great cinematography and lighting to be bad,

...

Well, I certainly should see this. Was hoping to find it yesterday, but, sadly, it wasn't there. Apart from that one quoted mistake, seemed like a fine review.

And I'm very glad to see more film reviews as of late. =D

and they combine to to gives the film a very unique style and atmosphere

That's the only other one I found.

Great review though. I didn't give this movie much of a chance, and refused to for quite some time, but after reading a few very valid and interesting observations of yours, I think I probably should.

Certainly a disturbing movie, even 40 years after it's completion.

The 2 1st posts point out 2 typos. Proof read your stuff! :P

Other than that, STILL haven't seen this movie, but I wonder if I should see it along with all the other installments of the Exorcist film series.

Sinclose:

Other than that, STILL haven't seen this movie, but I wonder if I should see it along with all the other installments of the Exorcist film series.

No. The conclusion to the first film is perfect. The sequels and prequels completely spoil it.

zombiesinc:

and they combine to to gives the film a very unique style and atmosphere

That's the only other one I found.

Yes, you passed my test. That whole error was just a test to see if you could point out errors. Now that you have passed I shall go and edit that very quickly and never speak of it again. <.<

FargoDog:

Sinclose:

Other than that, STILL haven't seen this movie, but I wonder if I should see it along with all the other installments of the Exorcist film series.

No. The conclusion to the first film is perfect. The sequels and prequels completely spoil it.

That's why I only really watch the first film in horror series and it's why I don't really want to watch the Omen II.

Hmm...

I wonder if it is as shitmaking as claimed for me.

Off topic; You look like a male Lucy.

Mackheath:

Off topic; You look like a male Lucy.

..Should I take that as a compliment or an insult?

FargoDog:

Mackheath:

Off topic; You look like a male Lucy.

..Should I take that as a compliment or an insult?

Thats the thing with me; my compliments can be backhanders, and vice versa. Its up to you to make up your mind. =)

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked