Sphinx’s Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review - The Exorcist
On an upcoming episode of the Last Action Podcast (Big Trouble in Little China - Oct 1), I mention how I want to do a movie challenge and watch 5 classic horror movies leading up to Halloween. While I love movies, a genre I have never enjoyed are horror films. Historically, I have always found them dumb and silly, with no real plot and unnecessary gore that makes your stomach queasy.
I’ve decided I’m going to have an open mind this Halloween season and review 5 movies I honestly have never seen before. Luckily, Gamezilla Media has a big horror movie fan in Deadite and so he is going to help me on my journey and watch these films with me to offer his interpretations and knowledge. I also want to give special thanks to Mrs. Deadite for letting me crash in their living room for what will be several nights watching these films.
So how am I going to rate these movies? I’m going to give a them a final letter grade, but the criteria I am going to base my rating on is coming from the following: plot, acting, suspense/fear factor, and gore/violence.
The first horror movie I chose to watch is possibly the most famous one of all, the 1973 classic The Exorcist directed by William Friedkin and written by William Peter Blatty (adapted from Blatty’s own book of the same name).
Plot: In the film, Chris MacNeil (played by Ellen Burstyn) believes her 12 year old daughter Regan is possessed by a demonic spirit. After getting help from a series of doctors she has no choice but to ask for the help of a Catholic priest to perform an Exorcism to get the demon out of her daughter’s body. The film definitely is slow to get started as it begins in Iraq where demon relics are found and then transitions to the Washington D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown, where Chris is an actress currently shooting a film. The film is certainly trying to set up the story so you can start to feel for the characters and learn about their backgrounds. However, I felt the beginning of the film was missing details to keep me fully involved. I would have liked to have seen a bigger connection towards the demon relics found in Iraq to what will happen with Regan, as well as actually showing Burke (the director of Chris’ movie) being pushed out the window by Regan instead of just being told it happened.
Acting: My favorite character in the film is Father Karras (played by Jason Miller), who has a PhD in Psychiatry and is having internal conflicts because of his mother dying from an illness, making him more skeptical of the Catholic faith. You see him going through these multiple emotions while also in agony in trying to comprehend what is truly happening to Regan.
Speaking of Regan, the girl that played the character was Linda Blair and she truly did a fantastic job. Given a challenging dialogue and having to say and do some bizarre things (take your pick - masturbating or cursing with tourettes or saying your mother sucks cocks in hell), Blair really makes you believe this is a possessed little girl. Deadite mentioned to me that Blair had such a great performance that she was always known afterwards as “The Exorcist girl” and found difficulty getting decent roles in films (I’m looking at you Daniel Radcliffe aka Harry Potter). I do believe the movie did a good job in keeping me interested in each of the main characters involved. Deadite also brought up to me how this is actually something that is unique to this horror movie as often in the genre you are immediately thrown into the chaos and horror of the movie and it can be hard to sustain or escalate those levels of fear.
Suspense: When it comes to the fear factor of this film, I was pretty disappointed in how it actually played out. For being named “The Scariest Movie of All Time” I felt like the horrors were more underwhelming and cheesy than scary. It is important for me to think of the context of when this film came out and that there had been nothing like this out before. It was said that the scene with Regan crab/spider crawling her way down the stairs was truly terrifying to audiences and her voice and bloody scenes of puking up green pea soup were also revolutionary to films at the time. Watching this for the first time in 2018 it seemed very dated and unimpressive if I’m being honest. I also felt like the film was pretty flat and predictable. Again this could be because of the knowledge I already had of this famous film without actually watching it before.
I felt like I knew exactly how this film was going to end; the priests were going to have to come and perform the exorcism to remove the demon. With the priests pushing Chris out of the room, it seemed evident that one or both of the priests were going to reach their end. “The power of Christ compels you!” was probably a pretty intense scene in 1973, with Regan growling and looking truly like a nightmare however I was left wanting more.
Gore/Violence: I felt this was pretty light compared to movies today, this film could use a 21st century update for sure. Regan’s makeup/costume is pretty sweet though; she truly looked like a demon from hell all bloody, while also being a pea soup puking monster of a character. However that is really it in terms of showing any violence or gore; a let down of expectations.
Other Notes: I think it’s important to finally say something about the success of this film. It was nominated for an astounding 10 Oscars in 1974 including: best picture, best actress, best supporting actress, best director and best actor (among others), winning the Oscar for best adapted screenplay and sound mixing. The mixing is revolutionary at that time and Deadite mentioned to me how Friedkin messed with all sorts of sounds and tested them to see how they could get people to react. In addition, the theme is very iconic with a simple piano melody.
Financially, the movie is massive. Adjusting for inflation it is the 9th highest grossing movie of all-time, making it easily the most successful horror movie ever. With a budget of $12 million, it made $441 million at the box office (roughly over $1 billion in 2018 dollars). It’s legacy lives on as a movie that everybody knows, and has influenced all horror movies that has followed.
Final Ranking: I didn’t really care much for this film but I appreciated what it was trying to do, even though I think it didn’t particularly do a great job at it. The internal struggle for Dr. Karras I feel could have been more of a focal point and more could have been done to show the true horror of Regan being possessed by evil. I know I have seen more scary/thrilling movies, some of which I wouldn’t even consider to be a horror movie at all. Mainly for giving it the appreciation it deserves, I give this film a…
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