The Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin
Writers: William Peter Blatty
Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
The "original" tale of possession and exorcism with rich, religious undertones that set the world ablaze with it's audacity. A young girl is possessed by a demon and aided by two priests fighting demons of their own.
Even now, forty years later, the film is disturbing. That means something to an avid horror buff like myself. Deemed a classic by the masses or not, I call a spade a spade and give honest reviews. If it's no longer gory or scary or disturbing in the here and now, I don't mince words. Too many films have lost their sparkle as the years have faded, but not The Exorcist. Watching the movie here in 2015, it is safe to say that the film is as shocking and audacious as it was the year it came out.
There have been far too many possession-style movies heaped into the market as of late and all pale in comparison to the original. The idea was brilliant: take a young, angelic girl and have her possessed by a very nasty demon named Pazuzu and don't hold back on the shock factor. The result is chilling even by today's standards. Sure, the effects look a tad dated, but the core theme burns into minds like it's a new film and it affects you. That's the real trick... being affected. It's why we watch movies. This movie, regardless of how many times viewed or in what year it was viewed, affects you. That is success in the horror genre.
I think many people have a hard time critiquing a beloved classic, but let's be real... most movies have weaknesses. The Exorcist is not immune. At times, the pacing is horribly slow. It is, in essence, dramatic horror, but there are far too many scenes that bog the movie down in dramatic dialogue. The movie could be just as effective if it was twenty minutes shorter.
Despite the poor pacing in parts, there are also portions of the movie that feel rushed, like the onset of the possession. There are moments where the characters tell you that Regan is getting worse, but you are not shown, and it gives a bit of a "huh?" effect to the plot. You tend to feel like you missed something and spend a few minutes trying to figure that out. These are minor gripes though and at times the slow moving parts allow for a more shocking effect when the possession scenes come and those scenes are pure cinematic gold.
To think a parent allowed their eleven year old daughter to act in this movie aside, Linda Blair's performance lends credence to the whole movie actually working. Had Regan's part been cast to an adult, the movie falls apart. It just wouldn't have held up over time, because what you remember is something you haven't seen before. The chilling effect is only because you see a child doing very un-childlike things. The audience is fully disturbed by thinking of their own child behaving in such a way or using vulgar language. It's a shock to the senses. The angelic look and portrayal of Regan in the beginning of the film only adds depth to the stark contrast of the demon she becomes. Brilliantly conceived and brilliantly acted on Blair's part.
This movie is a horror classic for good reason. It's groundbreaking, audacious, disturbing and to many, offensive. All of those qualities rattle the viewer and create a memorable viewing experience, whether that be good or bad, but it will never be indifferent. In many circles, this is the best horror movie in cinematic history and for the most part, I can't argue against that point.