"The Exorcist" Throwback Review
Almost forty-five years old, The Exorcist is still a creepy and uncomfortable film to watch. This film revolutionized and practically created the demonic possession genre, which spawned some truly horrifying films. While The Exorcist is excellent at being creepy, it’s never scary and almost boring to watch, dragging the whole way through and never reaching the peak of true horror.
The Exorcist opens with Father Merrin overseeing an archaeology site in Iraq. While there he uncovers a relic that is said to hold the ancient demon, Pazuzu. This causes him to experience an omen and forces him to return to the United States. From here we cut to Georgetown, where Chris MacNeil and her twelve-year-old daughter, Regan, are residing. Chris is a famous actress and a devoted mother. Strange happenings begin to occur around the house and Regan starts to exhibit supernatural traits such as speaking in a dead language and bending her body into impossible positions. Doctors cannot explain what has come over her, which leads them to conclude that she may be possessed. Chris seeks the help of a priest, Father Karras, to perform an exorcism on Regan.
There is tons of body horror and bloody imagery that will make you want to look away for a couple of seconds. Director William Friedkin highlights every excruciating detail and never holds back as he forces us to helplessly watch as a little girl is tortured by a demon.
The film chooses to take the slow road when it comes to storytelling and delivering the scares. While the pace allows for the characters to fully develop, it also lessens the effects of the scares and gives us too much of a break between each one. The same formula is used throughout, which consists of fifteen minutes of dialogue and then twenty seconds of scares. It gets predictable after a while, making the film become boring and easy to anticipate. The film also never reaches its full potential of being scary. It’s definitely creepy, but never scary enough. From a film that is regarded as the scariest ever, it's disappointing that I was not scared once.
The effects here are truly spectacular and push the boundaries of what can be shown on screen. Regan’s transformation is truly horrifying to watch as her body almost decomposes. The makeup and demonic voice-over by Mercedes McCambridge are incredible and make us feel more fearful of what Regan has become. The special effects used for the body horror sequences are exceptionally done, with the best shot coming when Regan’s head turns 360o and foams with blood.
The acting and characters are not as good as it could have been and don’t add anything memorable. Ellen Burstyn is average at best as Chris. We watch as she deals with losing her daughter to a force that no one can explain. While Burstyn does an alright job, the character of Chris just isn’t that good. I never felt anything for her and didn’t care what happened to her. Linda Blair does an excellent job of portraying Regan. She plays both the innocent girl and the demonic spirit really well. We fear for her safety as she becomes helplessly trapped inside her own body. Jason Miller and Max von Sydow do a respectable job as Fathers Karras and Merrin, but just like Burstyn, they suffer from being bad characters. They each have backstories that are unneeded that deviate too much from the central story.
The Exorcism is an interesting and grotesque film to watch because of its troubling subject matter and horrible imagery. It delivers a few creepy shots and moments, but it never reaches its full abilities in terms of horror.