The Exorcist - An Intense and Psychologically Scary Classic

                           During the winter of 1973-74, the release of a horror film called 'The Exorcist' became a phenomenon in USA. This is one of the rare R-rated block-buster movie. It was said that, the audience were drawn in the late winter by a primal desire to get shocked and prodded in a way that they'd never been shocked and prodded before. Four decades later Exorcist still gives you the chills, with well-developed characters and good special effects than those slice 'em and dice 'em horror flicks starring Freddy, Michael and Jason.

                         Directed by William Friedkin and written by novelist William Peter Blatty, 'The Exorcist' was said to be based on a true life story of a boy who underwent exorcism in the late 1940's. The movie blows two of cinema's biggest taboos: showing the church attempting to beat the supernatural, and depicting a young girl's traumatic puberty. Friedkin presents us a world full of normality at the beginning, then he steadily ruptures this everyday setting with the chaos seething under the surface. 

        The movie starts slowly on an archeological dig in North Africa and introduces us Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow). Merrin has a heart condition and the initial sequence foreshadows the coming encounter with evil forces. But we leave Merrin there, and follow the story of Regan which are destined to collide. Regan (Linda Blair) is a twelve year old girl, who is normal and well-adjusted. She is the daughter of popular actress Chris McNeil (Ellen Burstyn). We learn that McNeil is is opposed to all organized religion.

               Soon, Regan starts to hear strange noises, uttering obscenities, and experiencing violent tantrums and seizures.She is attended by a army of doctors, but still her condition worsens and she begins speaking in an inhuman voice. This calls for the spiritual help. So they contact a local priest and psychiatrist Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller). Father Karras has his own crisis of faith, but he becomes convinced of the Devil's power and convinces his superiors to perform a ancient ritual called 'exorcism.' The movie becomes more intense, when Karras is assisted by the respected and mysterious globe-trotting priest, Father Merrin.

                 The Exorcist is not like a teen slasher movie, where we are presented with a dozen of cardboard characters, who are to be cut to shreds. The characters here well developed. We get to know the relationships of McNeil with her friends and family, and we also get to know the Karras' spiritual struggles with his faith. The cast was equally impressive. Initially, high-profile actors were under consideration (Audrey Hepburn for Chris, Paul Newman or Marlon Brando for Karras). However, in the end, the film-makers went for largely unknown group of actors.

                 Linda Blair is a shock to see as she slowly entraps herself in the clutches of demon. Her innocence, renders her subsequent ravings so obscene. Blair was so good in this movie and it somehow defined her entire career, which took the low road and spiraled into exploitation fare. Jason Miller gives a wonderful performance as a tormented priest, who is losing his faith. Von Sydow, the Swedish actor who worked with Ingmar Bergman, as Merrin gives an instinctive feel to his character (He was only 44, at that time, though he played the part of old priest by wearing a heavy make-up). As McNeil, Ellen Burstyn excels whose sole concern is her daughter's welfare. 

                  In a deliberate, methodical way, William Friedkin builds the movie slowly and releases tension that is not only thrilling but seems perfectly natural. The atmosphere and mood is sufficiently creepy throughout the movie. One of the memorable and evocative image in this horror movie is, with Father Merrin emerging from a taxi and standing, in silhouette, under a street lamp as he faces the house where his latest struggle with the Devil will transpire.Sequences like this, scattered throughout the production, gives the movie an artistic edge. William Blatty's screenplay (for which he won an Oscar) makes the demonic possession, a lot scarier. The elements of "what if" in his screenplay makes the movie all the more plausible, and, therefore, all the more alarming.

                 The movie was shot in 1973, so by that standards the visual effects were impressive. Movie viewers will be scared upon seeing the Linda Blair's head spin or spider walk  or barfing green pea soup. Sound effects deserves its due credit for all the creepy scenes, which also won an Oscar. 

                  For some 'The Exorcist' might not seem as frightening as they were led to believe. I think your reaction on this movie will be largely based upon your faith. Those who believe in the existence of evil and Satan will more likely to become engrossed in the movie than people who don't. Even though we are horrified by the make up and gross obscenities, Exorcist is powerful when the attack is psychological. Father Merrin says during exorcism that, "The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with truth to attack us." The idea seems intriguing and renders the psychological view-point to the movie.

                  The sequels or prequels or other movies with the same storyline matched the quality and the success of the original picture. Regardless, of how viewers react, "The Exorcist" still remains an effective excursion into demonic possession.


The Exorcist - IMDb 


Stuti said...

I think Exorcist was/is one of the best movies in the genre of horror movies.

After a point of time, the horror flicks get so predictable that they hardly qualify as horror (I was actually pointing and laughing when I saw 'grudge'), but Exorcist still continues to terrify people. That speaks volumes, doesn't it?

ArjunaUbacha said...

Fantastic. I have seen this movie in cinema hall in the night show and I had counted total of 21 people. LAter when I saw this in our collegeAV hall, one guy fainted.

I love the build up of the story and the sound effects. This is a very polished movie. I liked the way you have talked about the scenes as well as given the background of the artists who were considered for the role.

Very nicely written.

Vinay said...

Technically right :)

Make Blog Index Like A Book

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

Brilliant review but sadly I'm yet to watch this movie :( Will watch it soon

vinay said...

I'm scared of horror movies even till now.
I haven't seen it yet and don't see myself seeing it soon any time.
Anyways a good review. :)

Arun Kumar said...

@Stuti, Thanks for the comment. Yeah, comparing to some J-horror movies "Exorcist" still terrifies people. Keep visiting

@Indiawilds, Thanks for the comment. Wasn't lucky enough to watch it in a theater.

Arun Kumar said...

@Vinay Prajapati, Thanks for the comment.

@Haricharan, Thanks for the comment. Will be looking out on your view point.

@vinay, Thanks for the comment. You should definitely give it a try.

Akshy said...

One of the best horro movies ever made:).Good review:).