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The Exorcist

A 1973 American horror film

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The best horror film of them all.

  • Oct 31, 2011
**** out of ****

When the end credits suite from "The Exorcist" begin to play, all questions that we might have had regarding the movie have been answered; and we finally understand its power. Even after the credits run their course, some might sit down and think for a while about what they have witnessed; and they will either go back mentally or literally to certain scenes to determine which ones have the most profound effect on them. A favorite of many and often cited as an influential landmark for its genre; this is my personal favorite horror film, as it embodies qualities that many horror films like it have, but few truly use. I am intrigued by religious horror films since they are worth analyzing with great depth, at times (i.e. "The Omen"), and at other times, they come off as arrogant and pretentious. But not this time. "The Exorcist" in itself defines why I like horror films so much; because some of the best do not exist merely to frighten and to disgust, but also to move and compel the viewer into eliciting an emotional response aside from fear. If there's a film that had the ability to make me both cringe and cry in a single viewing, this would be it.

An archeological expedition in Iraq leads to the discovery of a discouraging old relic by Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), a part-time archeologist. Upon discovering the object, the Father slowly slips into a mysterious illness; requesting for pills to aid his mental state, which is deteriorating by the minute. Everything he sees that comes across as genuinely new is given a hallucinogenic and nightmarish quality; we see through the eyes of the Father, and we realize that he shall never recover from whatever he is experiencing. By the end of his explorations, the Father has finally reached his final destination; at the site of where a large statue rests, presumably that of a demonic entity that closely resembles the found artifact. Surrounding the large stone demon (which is called Pazuzu) is hell on earth itself; mad dogs, a rising sun, and peculiar locals staring into the face of what could very well be their "God".]

From there, we have a significant change in location. Most of the film now takes place in Washington D.C.; in Georgetown, specifically, where actress Chris MacNeil lives alone with just her young daughter Regan (Linda Blair) and her housekeepers. Even with the father almost entirely out of the picture (he won't even do so much as call his little girl on her birthday; the cold, heartless bastard), the family of two is still a genuinely happy one; with mother currently shooting a new movie in the local area, and daughter living life as normally as most girls should.

Meanwhile, also in Georgetown, a young priest, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is succumbing to a good portion of the world depicted, and losing his Catholic faith. The situation that he is currently in - which mostly concerns his sick, elderly mother, who dies early on in the story - leads him to doubt the existence of his God all together. He figures that nobody can save him from the dark shadow of doubt itself, and that he should resume a normal existence through trying to stay emotionally strong and physically fit. Little does he know that he shall soon be called back into action.

Regan, like a faulty product that you buy from a store, starts acting up; but that doesn't begin to imply the seriousness of the statement. Perhaps I should be a little more specific; Regan shouts curse words at the doctor's office, urinates on the living room carpet during a house party, and finally, her bed shakes violently beyond her control. Chris, not-so-much-a-Catholic herself, does not know what to think of the situation until Regan's voice and actions begin to alter significantly to the point where it's almost not her anymore at all. Her voice gets disturbingly deep; and she often utters the strangest things, particularly when in the presence of a Holy Man or Woman. After the psychiatrists fail to help, Chris suspects that her little girl might be possessed by some sort of demon; or perhaps the Devil himself. But of course, seeing is believing, and unless she is given solid proof of her suspicions, Chris will not for a minute think that her daughter is possessed by some sort of malevolent, otherworldly being. She asks Father Karras to have a look; and this is where it is eventually concluded that an exorcism must be performed to drive out the evil spirits. In the end, another older and wiser priest (Sydow, returning in the same role that he played earlier) joins Karras in the performance of this "exorcism"; which makes up one of the best cinematic finales of all time.

Foul, vile, and depraved is the spirit that treats Regan's body as its host. But if it IS the Devil, then how can it not be? There is always the question: is it Pazuzu, or is it Satan? It could really be either, at this point; it's most likely Pazuzu, though. Why else would he be referenced so early on?

"The Exorcist" most certainly surprises through its visuals alone, but it is not merely "shock cinema". It wants to get a reaction out of the viewer, and for the most part, it remains an exercise in terror itself, but it also has a powerful, emotional self-journey as its plot; one of the best I've heard told in a horror film or any other film, for the matter. Based on a slightly lesser-known novel by William Peter Blatty, and directed by the wonderfully talented and exquisite William Friedkin, the story is spirititual at heart; and makes some smart commentary on the connection between our religion and our world. Many people - including myself - have abandoned faith, but unlike so many, I do not block it out entirely. If I did so, then the film would not have affected me as strongly as it did. I am glad for all who are open-minded enough to accept this material for what it is; for it's one thing to be scared (and oh, it's a nice, nice feeling), but it's admittedly a whole other thing to be shaken. Friedkin and Blatty together have done both of those things, and more.

Ah, yes; images of horror. My favorite part of a review for a "legendary" horror movie. I suppose you are wondering what sights, sounds, or elements in particular I was specifically moved by; and without going into extreme (AKA SPOILER) detail, I will tell you. I would have to say that, out of all the scenarios and great moments that this film has, the dream sequence in which Karras calls out to his mother, who cannot see him, and appears to be descending into a subway that acts as the gates to Hell. I will admit to having shed a tear during this scene; I cannot deny that I found it very powerful on an emotional level. With that necklace dropping, those sublime sounds, and oh, that scary white demon face that kept popping up; it makes "The Exorcist" what it is. It's one of those films that is scary because of what we think about, not what we see. It is surely dated by now, and those of a younger generation will deny the fear and instead laugh at the effects that were, for their time, frightening and revolutionary; but a smart audience will embrace the power that this film has over its audience, and we shall shrivel into our seats until we are no more.

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November 03, 2011
Stupendous film! I never grow tired of it. It still haunts meeven after all these years. Thumbs up!
November 06, 2011
Thanks man. Yes, I love the film too. So great.
October 31, 2011
still after many years since I saw it when I was 8 years old, this movie still gives me the creeps! This is even more awesome on bluray.
More The Exorcist reviews
review by . June 23, 2011
Great Restored Feature (The Version You've Never Seen DVD review)
I have few fonder memories of viewing a feature film in a theater than those recorded when I attended a screening of this widely promoted, extended version of The Exorcist during an unseasonably cold September evening nine years ago. Not all of my enjoyment was derived from the film itself. Now, it was a thrill to watch a film that I'd grown up with (which predated me by six years) on the big screen and to finally see numerous exciting and poignant scenes (that I'd read at least twice before …
review by . September 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 1
With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I would do some research and investigations about my favorite movie of all time:  The Exorcist.  While many thought the movie was not scary at all, others were terrified (especially me); partially based on the fact that the movie, which started out as a book, was based on a true story, and also because at the time of it's release, NO movie had ever been made like this one -- it was truly the first of it's kind.  Today we see …
review by . September 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2
   Ellen Burstyn, who played the role of Chris MacNeil, Regan’s mother, was injured on the set during filming. In the scene where she is checking on her daughter and later thrown away from the bed, she received a permanent injury to her spine: the harness that was used to shoot the scene pulled her away quickly and when she landed, Burstyn landed on her coccyx.  The scream seen immediately following the moment when Regan’s mother is tossed away from the bed is a very real …
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
My absolute favorite horror flick of all time. The only movie to truly scare the crap out of me!!
review by . November 11, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
It's difficult to look back on a film "classic" and try to review it through today's eyes...35 years later. It's always tempting to say, "Those effects were great...for 1973" or "imagine how that affected an audience...three decades ago." You almost feel like you have to make excuses for the film.    But I am happy to report that in a very recent, pre-Halloween viewing, THE EXORCIST has withstood the test of time nearly unscathed. Yes, some of the effects (there are actually …
Quick Tip by . February 07, 2010
review by . May 13, 2009
The Exorcist (1973) was one of the greatest horror films ever made. It scared the nation and the people wanted more! The movie made a lot of money and it launched William Friedkin's career beyond the stratosphere (he was already a big name thanks to the French Connection). William Peter Blatty's novel was already a big seller when it was optioned for a silver screen adaptation. The conflicts between the two over how it would be presented as a film could make a movie by it's own right. There was …
review by . November 03, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
After thirty-four years, 'The Exorcist' remains nearly as shocking and horrifying as it was upon its release in 1973. Back then, it was a movie event, and news pieces showed that 'The Exorcist' did to post-modern times what 'Dracula' did back during its debut. Near hysteria came to some, but the masses were at least electrified by what is unabashedly called "the scariest movie of all time".     The key element of this hallmark is that 'The Exorcist' is so convincingly real. Reinventing …
review by . August 27, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Since I was a kid, I have heard people all over say time and time again that THE EXORCIST is "one of the scariest movies of all time." Well, I've never been a huge fan of horror, but in order to improve my cinematic horizons, I have been watching a lot of schlock and horror lately and finally viewed THE EXORCIST. My impression: what in the world is the big deal? Outside of superb acting and some neat special effects, THE EXORCIST isn't that great. The writing is terrible and contains loads of dialogue …
review by . August 11, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
In terms of a MOVIE this is clearly one of the best ever made. Only the Godfather I & II compares to it, in terms of performances, (not a single bad one) Special effects and plot it is incredible. This movie doesn't rush itself. It slowly builds up until you just can't take it anymore. This is high art. All the people involved in this movie should be rightly proud. It will outlast anything else in the Genre. I know Linda Blair's career has paid a price for this but very few great actors have ever …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


The Exorcist is a horror novel by William Peter Blatty, published by Harper & Row in 1971. It is based on a 1949 exorcism of Robbie Mannheim that Blatty heard about while he was a student in the class of 1950 at Georgetown University, a Jesuit and Catholic school. On October 31, 2010, Cemetery Dance will publish a special omnibus edition of The Exorcist and its sequel Legion, signed by Blatty.


An elderly Jesuit priest named Father Lankester Merrin is leading an archaeological dig in northern Iraq and studying ancient relics. Following the discovery of a small statue of the demon Pazuzu (an actual ancient Sumerian demigod) and a modern-day St. Joseph medal curiously juxtaposed together at the site, a series of omens alerts him to a pending confrontation with a powerful evil, which unknown to the reader at this point, he has battled before in an exorcism in Africa. Meanwhile, in Georgetown, a young girl named Regan MacNeil living with her famous actress mother, Chris, becomes inexplicably ill. After a gradual series of poltergeist-like disturbances, she undergoes disturbing psychological and physical changes, appearing to become "possessed" by a demonic spirit.

After several unsuccessful psychiatric and medical treatments, Regan's mother turns to a local Jesuit priest. ...

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