Monday, October 20, 2008

The Exorcist

The Exorcist is billed as one of the scariest movies of all time. Having just seen it for the first time I can see why that would be true, granted I don’t usually get scared at movies but I can see the signs of a truly scary one and identify it. Plus, The Exorcist did make me tense a time or two so that is in its favor too. I knew how the movie ended (thanks to Angel and film school) and I was still impressed by the power of this story.

What impressed me first and foremost is that The Exorcist is a horror movie tried and true; the film is allowed to build slowly and organically and doesn’t rely on the gore “porn” so many horror movies now rely on for frights. While there are a few gross moments in this film, every single frame leads up to something important and you are actually scared because you have developed empathy for each and every major character.

Most people know what The Exorcist is about, but I have to assume there are those out there like me that have never seen it and need a little recap so here goes.

Chris MacNeil is an actress making a film in Washington DC with her daughter Regan who has been having some problems recently that the doctors have not been able to pin down. Father Karras is a priest who is also a shrink and is struggling first with his slowly building lack of faith and then with the health issues then death of his mother. Regan’s problems get worse until finally medicine cannot solve them and a room full of shrinks and doctors recommend who think that Regan’s possession is merely a psychological manifestation of some other problem and recommend that she get a priest to perform an exorcism so that Regan will believe the possessive personality she’s created is gone. Chris does not take the advice but finally when there is no other explanation than a literal possession Chris is referred to Father Karras; when he first sees Regan he is not ready to believe that Regan is genuinely possessed, but eventually can see no other option. When he has a exorcism approved by the church Father Merrin is called in to perform it and have Father Karras assist.

The beauty of this film to me is in the direction. The whole reason this film is one of the greatest horror movies of all time is because of how it was crafted. This movie is beautiful in all respects from the acting to the score and I know in the end that can all go back to William Friedkin; a movie cannot be this tightly crafted without a strong director. The only part that felt a little hard to tie-in for me was the opening sequence in Iraq, but even then it came partly back around through other elements in the movie.

The Exorcist is a masterpiece of a film in a genre so stylized now by quick edits and torture that comes nothing close to being remotely it’s equal. This is not a film every viewer can handle, but I would highly recommend checking it out if you are a film buff or a lover of the genre. The scariest thing of all is that this film is based on true events.

Director: William Freidkin
Writer: William Peter Blatty
Chris MacNeil: Ellen Burstyn
Fathe Merrin: Max Von Sydow
Lt. Kinderman: Lee J. Cobb
Father Karras: Jason Miller
Regan: Linda Blair

Father Merrin: Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don't listen to him. Remember that - do not listen.

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