“The Exorcist” has long been hailed as a classic in the horror genre, and it’s no wonder. This iconic film, released in 1973, has left an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape. While I’ve seen it before, revisiting this masterwork never ceases to captivate the senses. Directed by William Friedkin, it’s a testament to the enduring power of a well-crafted horror tale.
The story revolves around Ellen Burstyn‘s “Chris MacNeil”, an actress in Washington D.C., and her preteen daughter, Regan (played by Linda Blair). Chris’s life seems relatively stable, apart from the challenging work of balancing a career, planning Regan’s upcoming birthday, and reaching out to Regan’s elusive father. However, their tranquil existence takes a sinister turn when Regan falls ill, plagued by fever, nausea, and muscle spasms. An eerie darkness descends upon their lives, manifesting in ways that defy rationality.
Demons, Possession, and The Blueprint of Horror
“The Exorcist” is undeniably the foundational blueprint for an entire subgenre of horror – demonic possession. This classic tale was the inception point for the intertwining of possession and illness, the struggle of faith in the face of malevolence, and the idea that the demon’s knowledge can unlock the deepest secrets of those it torments. It laid down the groundwork, and every standard story beat we associate with demonic possession movies started here. For anyone stepping into the world of this film for the first time, it can be somewhat problematic, for it feels as though there are no surprises left.
A Monument to Horror
This is where “The Exorcist” treads an interesting line. Being such a defining presence in horror cinema, it has become a monolithic entity within our culture. Every iconic moment in the film, from Regan’s head-twisting to her profane utterances, has been parodied, referenced, and emulated so often that it may have lost its power to shock or surprise any Exorcist newbies.
The Power of Pacing
“The Exorcist” is surprisingly measured and contemplative during its first half. It presents a mundane portrayal of daily life, creating a sense of unease as it hints at something sinister lurking beneath the surface. The deliberate build-up is effective in creating a stark contrast with the shocking events of the latter half of the film. Those little hints, the unease they sow, make the eventual revelations even more impactful.
Disregard for Taboos
What truly set “The Exorcist” apart when it was first released was its daringness to challenge conventions and taboos, shattering the sanctity of religion, childhood innocence, and traditional family values. The film disrupts the norm at every turn. It’s a single mother’s struggle, a lack of traditional heroic figures, and a nihilistic disregard for rules and taboos. Blasphemy is casually displayed in the vandalised church statue, and this irreverent act sets off a chain of events that culminate in graphic horrors. “The Exorcist” effortlessly blurs lines, sending chills down the spines of viewers in an era far more conservative than our own.
Action Reloaded’s Verdict
“The Exorcist” is an unparalleled work of horror cinema that has spawned an entire subgenre and transcended into an icon. For those who haven’t yet ventured into its eerie depths, it’s a journey worth taking, if only to appreciate the roots of a genre and understand the evolution of horror over time. This cinematic masterpiece may not terrify as it once did but it still retains the power to captivate and intrigue, even after all these years.
Watch the 1973 Exorcist Trailer. Warner Bros.
★★★★☆ Action Reloaded
Don’t Miss The Latest “The Exorcist: Believer”, 2023
Check out the review of the new “The Exorcist: Believer”, 2023 if you haven’t already.
“The Exorcist: Believer” is haunting theatres from 6th October 2023, beckoning you to confront your fears.
Watch the 2023 trailer now. Universal Pictures.