This review is part of our 31 Days of Horror series. You can check out the other posts by clicking these words.
When a young girl becomes seemingly possessed by a whole other entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests in a desperate bid to save her daughter. Actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is taking up temporary residence in Washington D.C. and has her fair share of problems. The movie she is currently making has a script with no bite; her ex and the father of her adolescent daughter Regan (Linda Blair) is rarely heard from; and the attic of the house she is staying in is occupied by rats. Things get a whole lot worse, however, when Regan begins to display some brutal changes in behaviour. At first, Chris feels the changes could be a result of the unstable lifestyle her daughter has been forced to lead, but as Regan becomes more violent, she becomes convinced that her behaviour has to be down to something more. No medical doctor is able to provide a sound diagnosis, and with her outbursts worsening and becoming more frequent, it would appear that Regan is in need of help that lies outside the boundaries of medicine. Chris thinks her daughter is possessed, so seeks the help of an exorcist.
So, I finally got brave and watched The Exorcist, although I have to admit I was nowhere near as disturbed as I thought I might be by it. In fact, apart from the projectile vomiting, none of it really bothered me if I’m honest with you. Like with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I can’t see why the age rating hasn’t been dropped in recent years, but unlike with the other film, I can understand why The Exorcist was so controversial, and banned as a result of the controversy it caused.
There is one performance that had everybody talking, and that would be the one put on by Linda Blair as the possessed Regan. Blair was very young at the time the film was made and provided audiences with a very impressive show that was nominated for an Oscar. I would imagine that it would be quite a challenge enacting a possession that could be taken seriously and potentially scare people anyway, but for someone who is essentially still a child to be one of the first ever to do something like this in film should be considered quite an achievement if you ask me.
As I’ve already mentioned, this film raised many eyebrows and was subsequently banned in a number countries following its release, and remains banned in a few to this day. I suppose with the time it was made, The Exorcist could be seen to be poking fun at the Catholic Church, and forty-odd years ago, religion was still a big thing for a lot of people. I would also take a punt on it being quite a shock for 1970 audiences for a young girl to be dropping the C-bomb, but I wouldn’t say it was due to the horror element that the film was banned, because I wouldn’t personally class it as a horror film, more like a supernatural detective thriller.
The plot for the film was alright, but I must confess that in the extended version I saw, the Iraqi prologue’s relevance to the rest of the film did go over my head a bit. Other than that, though, I found it all to be quite watchable.
On the whole, The Exorcist did leave me slightly underwhelmed, but when I look at it more as a thriller than a horror film, I do rate it slightly more. I wasn’t scared out of my wits, nor was I left sleepless for a few weeks because of what I had seen, but it was entertaining enough to sit through from start to finish and not want to absolutely savage it with my review.
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