Director: William Friedkin
Writers: William Peter Blatty, William Peter Blatty (novel)
Starring: Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb
Rating: Won 2 Oscars: Best Adapted Screenply, Best Sound. 8 Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Editing.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #69, week 40 2015
When the young girl Regan (Linda Blair) starts behaving oddly the doctors are puzzled. As her condition deteriorates and doctors give up, Regan’s mother turns to Father Karras (Jason Miller) in desperation. Although not completely convinced that Regan is possessed by a demon, or that such a thing is possible, he still chooses to seek the help of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), an experienced exorcist.
Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty this is still one of the most disturbing and effective horror movies to date. Director Wlliam Friedkin takes the ancient and exotic horror of demons and possession and bring it into the normally safe walls of an ordinary home, thus making Regan’s brilliantly realised tranformation from happy pre-teen to demonic vessel all the more frightening. The movie opens with our title character, the exorcist Father Merrin, excavating in Iraq, and then cuts to Regan and her mother, leaving the exorcist out of the frame for a large portion of the film. Linda Blair (Hell Night, 1981) is impressive as the troubled child, covering the spectrum from sweet and normal pre-teen to very believable vessel for a demonic force. Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, 2000) impresses as the single mother pushed to the edge. We all feel her pain as she watches her daughter slowly disintegrates in front of her. Like most great films, The Exorcist has a simple but great story. In broader terms, Regan’s frightening and highly sexualised change reflects the change from childhood into adulthood, but the film also relies heavily on Catholic imagery and, as is the case in many films, portrays the church as a final but effective resort that restores peace in a chaotic world. Father Karras, who is first approached by Regan’s mother and assists Father Merrin in the exorcism is perhaps the film’s most intriguing character. He is a priest and psychologist, but is tormented by doubts and a heavy conscience following the death of his lonely mother, something the demon takes advantage off to great effect. As a doubter, both in terms of faith and the legitimacy of the possesion, it is through him – and not the mother – we are ultimately convinced. This is much due to the strength of a great script and Jason Miller’s (The Exorcist III, 1990) strong performance, which surprisingly was his début role and for which he received an Oscar nomination. In the film’s final act, the exorcism itself, the film is one iconic scene followed by another, impeccably directed by Friedkin (The French Connection, 1971) and when it comes to exorcism films, this is still the one to beat. A must see for horror fans.
N.B. This is how you make a great horror trailer!
When adjusted for inflation The Exorcist is both Warner Brother’s highest grossing film and the highest grossing R-rated film ever.
The movies producer wanted Jamie Lee Curtis to audition for the role of Regan, but her mother, Janet Leigh, refused. Ironically, Jamie Lee Curtis would later get her first movie role in another horror movie, John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).
Director William Friedkin went to great lengths to get genuine reactions from his cast, he would fire guns and slap actors across the face to achieve shocked expression. He even put Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair in harnesses and had staff member yank them violently to get the more realistic reactions.
Picture Copyright: SF Film