Elle Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller
Directed by William Friedkin
The Exorcist has been known for being one of the earliest and favorite demonic possession movies. Some people feel like it’s not scary enough, others, that it that theme itself is why they won’t watch it. In fact, The Exorcist was not intended to scare but to make viewers think about evil in the world they live in.
A young girl, Regan, entering the age of puberty is possessed by a demon. Despite the doctor’s visits and medical tests, there is no true answer why she is sick. Her mother finally seeks religious help and a priest who has been questioning his own faith agrees to perform an exorcism.
While there are a few terrifying scenes in the movie, The Exorcist doesn’t quite set itself up to be labeled a “horror” film. The first ten minutes follow an older priest on an archaeological dig in Northern Iraq. After an evil looking relic is discovered, he flies home to the United States and the slow possession of Regan’s soul begins. The movie follows different perspectives and one of these is a younger priest, Father Karras , who isn’t sure if he’s meant to continue preaching when he doubts his faith.
At the end of the movie, when the demon has gotten a good grip on Regan’s body, Father Karras sees for himself the realness of evil at Regan’s bed. It pushes his belief in God and when he performs the exorcism he takes the demon into his own body. It’s a true test to overcome the demon inside himself.
Regan’s own possession was not nearly as terrifying as most horror movies are now. (For example, see my review on The Lazarus Effect.) Sure, she looked ugly and could rotate her head 360 degrees, however, her possession was largely of a vulgar and grotesque nature. One of the signs Regan’s mother could tell something was off with her daughter was the foul language coming out of her mouth. She was using words about violating herself sexually and stabbing her private parts. It was overall disturbing to watch, rather than scary.
It’s not clear as to how or why Regan was possessed and could be left to open interpretation. (The Exorcist was also based on a book so perhaps the answers are clearer in there.) One of the better theories I read said it could be that since the older priest arrived in the same town Regan lived, the demon entered her through the ouija board she began playing with.
The Exorcist is an interesting movie to watch based on its religious questioning of good versus evil, however, I was not a fan due to the vulgarity of the demon’s possession. Before I did some reading on others analysis of the movie, I would have said it was almost a “lame” horror movie. Now, I take it more as an okay movie with some mildly terrifying scenes.