The Exorcist (1973)
Written By: Karla Cortes
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: William Friedkin
Producer: William Peter Blatty
Screenplay: William Peter Blatty
Date Released: December 26, 1973
Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil
Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil
Lee J. Cobb as LT. William Kinderman
Barton Heyman as Dr. Klein
Jack Macgowran as Burke Dennings
Vasiliki Maliaros as Father Karras’ Mother
Jason Miller as Father/Dr. Damien Karras
Max Von Sydow as Father Lancaster Merrin
Kitty Winn as Sharon Spencer
Rudolf Schundler as Karl the house servant
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
The Exorcist (1973) introduces the audience to a couple of different plots all connecting towards the middle of the film. With the first few scenes, we are introduced to Father Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow) excavating and doing archeological work in Hatra, Iraq when he discovers a strange amulet that resembles the head of a larger statue on sight, the demon Pazuzu . We are then introduced to Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), a wealthy actress, and her daughter Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) living in Georgetown, Washington D.C. After Chris discovers the fact that Regan had played with Ouija board and contacted a man named “Mr. Howdy”, Regan begins to act incredibly strange and out of character. As Regan gets worse, Chris seeks help from Doctor Klein (Barton Heyman) and his team of medical professionals who can’t seem to find a reason for Regan’s behavior. After Regan’s horrifying behavior worsens and extreme physical changes to Regan’s body resembling that of decomposition set in, Chris has no choice but to accept that her daughter has been fully possessed by a demon. Chris reverts to Father Karras (Jason Miller), who is facing personal demons of his own due to the death of his mother (Vasiliki Maliaros), and Father Merrin for answers and a hope to end the demonic possession over her innocent daughter.
As a 12-year-old, possessed little girl jerks in an inhumane motion crawling down the stairs while blood spews out is precisely what one would hope when seeing a movie called The Exorcist. As this film shows, gore within horror movies does not always have to be blood and guts to succeed in grossing out an audience. A combination of green vomit, puss and lacerations, with a splash of a few blood here and there are what encapsulates the gore aspect of the film. The special effects used within the film were praised not only for flying objects and seasonal changes, but they were praised for scenes such as Regan stabbing herself with a cross between her legs and the oozing liquid expelling from her face. The goriest aspect of the film is not within the film, but within the production and set of the film. Many of the actors and crew felt unease at the sight of strange occurrences on set including the Macneil house burning down nine deaths occurring right after the film finished being produced. Some of the deaths were unexplained, and some were considered “natural”.
The Grave Review
The Exorcist (1973), although a classic amongst all demonic movies and deemed as the grandfather of all things supernatural, truly requires a current perspective to see the flaws across the film that became the first horror film to ever be nominated for an Oscar Best Picture. But from an old, fresh eye of the 70s to see why this film was a hit. There are a few speculations as to why the film became so popular. For starters, the film was based on a true story that that was written by William Peter Blatty as a novel of the exorcism of a young boy in 1949. This, of course, made the film more real and terrifying. The next speculation is that no film in the early 70s had managed to hit the big screen with these many horrifying sights, especially with the protagonist being a 12 year-old girl and the use of religious objects in an anti-religious way.
It is worth mentioning that there was much controversy in the ratings of The Exorcist (1973). The Motion Picture Association of America had initially rated the film X meaning that no children were permitted to enter the theater even if they were with an adult. After battling with the rating, Friedkin cut a few scenes of blood and gore in order to have the rating to be re-classified as R so minors with a parent will be able to enter theaters especially since most theaters refused to show X films. This brings us into the next speculation. The children of the 70s, alongside with the adults, were not used to seeing horrifying scenes on the big screen.
Special effects weren’t nearly as advanced back then, and for its time, The Exorcist managed to make a possessed Regan look entirely real, especially in scenes depicting Regan’s head rotate at a full 360 while she spoke or having her crawl down the stairs in an ungodly manner. Nowadays, it is difficult to shock audiences with horror movies because we have become so desensitized to not only realistic, high-tech special effects, but also because we see gore and horror all the time, thanks to the first movies such as this one. But for the generation watching this film on the big screen was never before seen and incredibly shocking, even traumatizing.
Lastly, the relationship between Regan and Chris captured the audience in that not only would children feel a connection with Regan when she was with her mother but also that parents would feel that same connection with Chris as a mother. The parents could really feel for Chris and not only get their jump scares in, but also have their heart strings plucked.
All in all, The Exorcist (1973) to a contemporary audience would be amusing, but nothing new and exciting. There are many holes within the plot, as well as the story line, and even within the set design during turbulent scenes. We recommend watching the film not for its plot and cinematography, but in order to understand the roots of today’s supernatural/demonic horror films and where phenomenal special effects that we see today truly originated from.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Exorcist (1973) four graves out of five graves.
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You may also like our review of the film, Hell Night.