The Ultimate 70s Blogathon
Thank you to both Drew and Kim for hosting such a great blogathon! And what a cool, psychedelic banner you made too (if I may add). See the original review here.
The Exorcist (1973) – Film Review
Though not one of my absolute personal favourites (like top 20 or something), I still believe that The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror films, if not THE greatest horror film ever made. And I realise that’s an incredibly bold statement but it’s hard to imagine anything else ever being as infamous, chilling and powerful. It’s the ultimate battle between good and evil. It has an amazing atmosphere, pairing great writing with genuine terror and is still scary to this day (45 years after its original release – actually that might be the scariest fact of all!). Anyway, twinned with the fact I’d watched it fairly recently it was an easy choice for the Ultimate 70s Blogathon.
I first watched The Exorcist as a teenager (almost a rite of passage) and it did really scare me. But let’s just get this out the way now – of course it won’t ‘scare’ everyone. And of course it won’t scare you if you watch it with your stoner mates and laugh loudly through the crucifix scene. But that doesn’t make it shit, okay? I don’t often get on my high horse with movies (not unless someone starts slagging of Face Off or Zoolander) but it genuinely irritates me when people say “The Exorcist? That’s shit! I thought it was funny”. Er, no mate. It wasn’t the first ever horror film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar for nothing you know (though it didn’t win). Aaaaand exhale.
The Exorcist is an Absolute Classic – plain and simple. I refuse to hear otherwise. Apart from some valid points already mentioned, there are other various reasons it deserves the jagged, bloody crown of horror.
Based on a novel, it has a super, valid and coherent story. Made in the 70s it has those beautiful on-screen retro effects. You know when they’re all freezing cold in Regan’s room and their breath comes out white? Well the room really was like an ice box. And you know Regan’s horrible gravely ‘possessed’ voice? That really was done by a voice actress – who chain smoked and drank whiskey to get the tone right (you gotta love that relaxed 1970s outlook).
It’s also very well directed and I can only assume William Friedkin pissed off the entire set with his gung-ho attitude. Examples include firing a real gun next to someone’s head to get a ‘real’ reaction and the bit where Regan’s mother (Ellen Burstyn) is attacked by her possessed daughter, well she really WAS in pain – and shouting angrily at Friedkin as she landed on the floor, screaming and clutching her back. It was a genuine reaction – and cheerfully kept in the film. If you care to check out the IMDB trivia page you’ll find lots of similar stories. And then of course there’s the cool mystery, intrigue and real life horror that generally surrounds The Exorcist. Like the myth that there was evil ‘written into the pages’ of the script, making it a cursed movie from the beginning. With deaths on the set and a fire that halted production for a number of weeks, interestingly there was actually a real life exorcism ON SET – that’s how freaked out they all were. And the terror definitely continued with the audience, with reports of people fainting, throwing up and running out of the cinema, one guy apparently actually broke his jaw as he collapsed in shear, dramatic fear.
Aside from all that, it also seems important to point out that The Exorcist is also scary, simply because it’s just that – SCARY. It’s dark, it’s claustrophobic, there’s creepy eyes and demonic voices, evil laughter, dark corners and tension. We’re talking about a cute little girl possessed by a malevolent demon for goodness sake. And though it’s now been done many, many (yawn) times, back in 1973, can you imagine how effing terrifying it was?
So, what more proof do we need that The Exorcist is a terrifying and brilliant delight? We have a great story, a mental director, superb old effects and a genuine feel of evil. Well, I suppose we could do with a world famous theme tune? Something that everyone now associates with the film? Happily The Exorcist also succeeds this, in the shape of Mike Oldfield’s the Tubular Bells. Not a score written for the movie, but a piece of music used in the movie and now basically as famous as the movie. And in places, just as scary.