the fresh films reviews

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The Exorcist (1973)

Succeeded by: Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

William Friedkin
121 minutes
William Peter Blatty
Screenwriter (based on his own novel):
William Peter Blatty

Cast includes:

Chris MacNeil Ellen Burstyn
Father Merrin Max von Sydow
Lt. Kinderman Lee J. Cobb
Sharon Kitty Winn
Burke Dennings Jack MacGowran
Father Karras Jason Miller
Regan Linda Blair
Voice of the Demon Mercedes McCambridge



After causing aversion, disgust and discussions about the fundamental role of film as a cultural medium back in 1973, The Exorcist still has the ability to make even the callous moviegoer uncomfortable and uneasy today, 35 years later. What originally felt as an attack on religion and the church, today feels more as a testament to the overwhelming position and massive impact Christianity has had on every aspect of western culture over the past few centuries. There is little doubt that Blatty and Friedkin deployed cynical and calculated visual and filmatic means in order to provoke and evoke the shocking effect that The Exorcist has got both cerebrally and emotionally, but what is perhaps more remarkable is that while The Exorcist no longer feels as reckless today as in 1973 - compared to subsequent films in the genre - it still has easily survived the test of time as an effective horror film.

The reason for this effectiveness, for The Exorcist's ability to engage and hold our terrified and increasingly pious attention, is how the filmmakers keep presenting every little progress in Regan's and Chris' situation in a pragmatic and authentic manner. Through Ellen Burstyn, we come along for a ride down the downward spiral, from confusion and desperation through denial and to virtual apathy. And as we try to nod along to the rationalizations of the medical profession, we get more and more convinced that what's possessing Regan is very much actual, and that the situation is as palpable and fundamentally scary as her family fear.

No other film in horror history has been able to realize and physicalize the supernatural and unexplainable as forcefully and compellingly as The Exorcist. The lurid combination of the tasteless and completely inconsiderate images of a child desecrating her own hymen - the very symbol of physical and mental purity, and the seemingly sincere and downright presentation of the satanic, constitutes a massive, inevitable effect on everyone subjected to the Christian indoctrination which has been prevalent in western societies for centuries. It is a thematic line with a resonance which the horror genre never has been able to equal before or after.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 14.11.2008 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 16
.6.1996 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang