E is for The Exorcist. I first saw The Exorcist in a theater in 1973. Shocking and disturbing, it is not a film that is easily forgotten. It won two Academy Awards, one for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the other for Best Sound. William Peter Blatty wrote the novel The Exorcist, and also wrote the screenplay. William Friedkin directed.
The film is rated R for strong language and disturbing images. This is an understatement. Unless you can stomach some horrific scenes of a young girl’s possession by the devil, don’t watch this film.
Branded a horror film, which it definitely has elements of, it is also a mystery/thriller. The suspense builds slowly as we follow the descent of the poor little girl inexplicably chosen as a vessel for the devil, and her mother’s frantic attempts to save her from what would be certain death.
Chris McNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is an actress living in Georgetown in Washington, D. C. where she is completing a film. Her 12-year-old daughter Regan (Linda Blair) is a sweet, artistic girl, and the relationship between mother and daughter is loving and respectful. However, Regan begins to act strangely, and the terror heightens as she becomes more and more violent, accompanied by bizarre incidents in the house where they live.
Desperate to find a cure for her daughter’s increasingly life threatening condition, Chris is told by psychiatry to seek out an exorcist. Initially skeptical, she is finally left with no other choice.
Father Karras (Jason Miller), even while questioning his faith, is drawn to helping Chris and Regan, and since he has training in psychiatry, appears to be a logical choice. He contacts his superior who sends for Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), a priest who has experience with exorcisms. We first met him briefly at the beginning of the film at an archeological dig in Iran. The two men boldly carry out the exorcism of the devil that has taken possession of Regan.
I watched the Extended Director’s Cut of The Exorcist on DVD, so I don’t know that it was exactly like the film I saw back in the 1970’s. But the disturbing images I recalled from the film back those many years were still present.
I think you’ll either be intrigued by this film or turn it off midway. There is no doubt it is well written and executed. Whether it is to your tastes is a personal thing. As my faithful readers know, I always review scary movies during the month of October for Halloween, and if you like that type of film, you might want to watch The Exorcist.
Ellen Burstyn went on to have a great career in film and was an Academy Award winner for Best Actress in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Linda Blair continued to work in film, albeit for not such well-known movies. The Exorcist placed both of them in the limelight and was a definite boost to their careers. It is now considered a film classic.