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The Exorcist



(Reviewed by Snake-666) - Perhaps the most important modern-horror movie!  ‘The Exorcist' tells the story of an innocent twelve year old girl named Regan (Linda Blair) who starts to exhibit strange, often violent, behaviour. After numerous medical tests her despairing mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), calls in a young priest by the name of Father Karras (Jason Miller) who, to begin with, believes that Regan is somehow faking demonic possession. However, after Karras conducts numerous tests he becomes increasingly convinced that Regan is indeed possessed by a demon and enlists the help of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), an ageing and experienced priest. Together the two attempt to rid Regan of the demon that has afflicted her.

William Friedkin directed the screen adaptation of William Peter Blatty's best selling novel, which was based upon the last known exorcism to be carried out in the United States. Blatty changed the little boy from the 1949 incident into the young girl that we know as Regan and Friedkin's adaptation of the story became one of the most controversial and infamous horror movies of the past thirty-five years. ‘The Exorcist' is far more than a simple horror story about demonic possession. Blatty gave us characters that we could care about and sympathise with and Friedkin transferred these characters to screen wonderfully. The characters all have a history and their own traumas that feature heavily in their lives. ‘The Exorcist' has been condemned by some as showing evil to be more powerful than good, but ‘The Exorcist' is a story about fighting ones own personal demons. The subtle undertones of the movie portray that sometimes having faith is not enough; we all require help from time to time. This message is subtle but apparent, yet never removes any of the horror. The way that Friedkin manipulates his characters gives, what could be deemed as an unrealistic movie, a shocking sense of realism. The characters are far from one-dimensional and that impacts even more heavily on the viewer.

By pushing the limits of what was acceptable in terms of violence and taking horror effects further than they had really been before, Friedkin introduced us to a new wave of cinematic violence that would pave the way for far more brutal and gruesome exploitation movies, yet none had the raw impact of ‘The Exorcist'. Although the effects used in ‘The Exorcist' were very basic, the impact that they had on any viewer willing to consider the subject matter was enormous. Unlike other similar movies, every aspect of the portrayal of ‘The Exorcist' was vital to the script. One is forced to feel for this innocent twelve year old girl and her despairing mother as all manner of horrendous events occur. Convincing acting performances from the entire cast (although Regan's demonic voice was dubbed in by Mercedes McCambridge) certainly aided ‘The Exorcist' in becoming the movie that it is. Ellen Burstyn is exceptional as the despairing mother and one can do nothing but empathise for her character as she is driven to a near-breakdown, but remaining strong for her daughter's sake. It is hard to imagine how a loving mother would truly react in such circumstances, but one would believe that Ellen's portrayal was not far off the mark. Jason Miller's performance as Father Karras is also extremely powerful. His crisis of faith after the upsetting events in his life is portrayed beautifully and gives his character an air of humanity that is rarely found in horror movies.

Without a doubt ‘The Exorcist' was helped by the numerous reports of people vomiting, fainting or running out of the theatre screaming. The extremely troubled production of ‘The Exorcist' (which included a set catching fire and people dying) also added to its notorious reputation. However, even without this unfortunate infamy, there is little denying that ‘The Exorcist' is a movie of extremely high historical importance. Blessed with ten Oscar nominations and breaking the box-office record previously set by ‘The Godfather' one can hardly doubt the impact that the movie had on the genre and cinema in general. One can debate whether ‘The Exorcist' took the subtle, psychological horror of movies such as ‘Rosemary's Baby' (1968) and added extreme exploitive horror, or whether it simply plays on fears of the unknown – perhaps even a mixture of both? Nonetheless, ‘The Exorcist' remains one of (if not THE) most powerful, shocking and compelling horror movie of all time. It is possibly the most important modern-horror movie as it's influence can be seen in such movies as 'The Omen' (1976), 'The Evil Dead' (1981) and even 'The Amityville Horror' (1979) to some extent. My rating for ‘The Exorcist' – 9.5/10.


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