I will admit, I originally was not planning on reviewing this film for this month. I wanted to save it for a later date, but I got so many requests for it that I absolutely couldn’t refuse. With that, I want to thank everyone that suggested this because I had forgotten how much I liked this movie. With that, let’s begin!
One of the things I love about this movie is how despite the subject, everything seems pretty realistic. This movie doesn’t have an overbearing sense of style. The lighting, setting, costumes, etc. all seem fairly realistic. There are a few scenes that you can tell were really well thought out in terms of where to put the camera and how to light the scene, but for the most part everything feels real. That is one of the things that makes this movie scarier, the idea that this could actually happen.
This film is very subtle in almost every respect, and I love the visual subtlety. There are a few visual hints such as the Devil’s face popping up in various places and the occasional use of red furniture, clothing, or environment (a technique that would later be copied by The Sixth Sense). The great thing though that a lot of horror movies forget is to not bombard you with ridiculous imagery but rather just let everything slowly sink in and get inside your head, which this film does very well.
The pacing of the film was also something I absolutely loved due to the subtlety. The progression of this film sneaks up on you, where most films either leave you sitting there waiting for the action to come or make you feel like you’ve just been run over by a train with how fast everything came out at you. I felt mildly uneasy when Regan was revealed to be sleeping in bed with her mother because her bed was shaking, and I visibly cringed during the close up of the nurse drawing her blood for tests. By the time the possession went into full swing, I was caught off guard with how we had arrived at that point so soon (before realizing we were actually an hour or so into the film).
Now, the thing most people remember about this film is Linda Blair’s performance. Despite only being thirteen or so at the time of the film’s release, Blair did an absolutely amazing job. While I cannot argue this point and do not wish to, I do want to discuss another character more. The film is called The Exorcist, not The Exorcism, but many people seem to forget the importance of Father Damien Karras. While the film on the surface is about a girl suffering from possession of a demon that has entered her from outside her control, the deeper context of the film reveals a man struggling to exorcise the demons he has formed within himself. Thus, the scary part of this film, to me, is not the fact that Linda Blair can turn her head around backwards or spit blood, but rather that Father Karras becomes so absorbed by his personal demons that he commits suicide. We hear repeatedly that Damien feels guilty for his mother’s death (something the demon brings up constantly) and that he wants out of the priesthood. Right before his death he takes the demon into himself and uses the last of his willpower to hurl himself out the window, relieving himself and those around him from his “demons”.
The only question with this film that I keep asking is why Regan? Why does Regan get possessed in the first place? How? The Demon seems interested in Karras specifically, did he possess her knowing Karass would eventually come? This is never quite answered, but then again it is a question that does not necessarily need an explanation.
Honestly, I don’t think this is a film you can analyze into oblivion. It does everything it can to make it seem real (like keeping the settings realistic and adding bits of dialogue stating the hesitancy of the Catholic Church to conduct an exorcism). The story is pretty straight forward and the scare tactics are psychological and visceral, not cheap and easily out-dated. This is a great example of simplicity being the best answer, and it will continue to be a shining example of American horror for years to come.
Instead of including a favorite scene, you can watch The Exorcist on youtube! Unfortunately, it’s not free, but it’s better than nothing. Enjoy!