Probably the most famous film ever to cover demonic possession; an unmissable Oscar-worthy horror
In 1999, Entertainment Weekly declared that The Exorcist was the “scariest movie of all time”. It’s an accolade that many people would reiterate, even today.
Directed by William Friedkin and based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the screenplay, the film itself is part of the horror landscape, and its influence can still be seen in modern films in a similar vein. It launched the career of Linda Blair and stars Ellen Burstyn and Max Von Sydow as her mother and the title character, respectively.
It’s incredible to think that it was nominated for 10 academy awards, including Best Picture, and it walked away with two of them.
The effect that The Exorcist had on an audience can only be measured by when the film was viewed. I imagine a modern audience watching it today would find it slower paced by today’s standards, and some of the practical effects would raise a wry smirk, but the themes explored are so dark they would still strike a chord or two.
In 1973, it broke new ground in the horror genre, and its direction, production values, special effects, sound and cinematography was something that a film like this very rarely received. As a result, a high budget and well-crafted tale of demonic possession, set in an (almost) normal suburban setting, was groundbreaking and controversial.
The lore and mythology that to this day stalk the production shows the effect it has had on the cinema-going public. Tales of tragedy and heartbreak that followed the cast and crew are well documented; stories of people being so scared they either fainted or ran screaming from the theatre are commonplace.
It’s fair to say that The Exorcist (Mark Kermode’s favourite film, by the way) was something that took the viewing public by storm.
When it received a video release in the UK in the early 1980’s (remember video tapes?) despite an 18 rating the film was still deemed too scary, and fearing it would be watched by children in the privacy of their own homes, it became a victim of the “video nasties” campaign and banned. Yes, kids, in the 80’s we were often told what we could and couldn’t watch, and The Exorcist, nominated for 10 Academy Awards, remember, was one of them, along with Evil Dead, Cannibal Holocaust and others too numerous to mention.
Since those dark days of government-led censorship, the film has received the kudos it deserves. It’s a masterpiece of filmmaking in every way. The acting is amazing, the effects still hold up, the story has an epic quality of good versus evil, and there are characters you would want to see in their own spin-offs. Everyone remembers the green pea soup vomit and the 360 degree head twist, but there’s so much more to see here.
If you haven’t watched The Exorcist, can I recommend the recently released Blu Ray version, that includes the infamous spider-walk scene cut from the original theatrical release? Still scary, still relevant, and a must-see film.