Film review: The Exorcist (1973), directed by William Friedkin
Actor Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is starring in a film, but her 12-year-old daughter Regan (Linda Blair) starts behaving strangely. The doctors subject the girl to plenty of tests but can’t find anything physically wrong with her.
Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller) is not just a priest with Doubts™ but also a psychologist, so Chris begs him to see her daughter, as the suggestion of an exorcism has been voiced. Karras is sceptical – surely demonic possession isn’t actually real?
But the evidence is compelling, and Karras asks the church for help. They send him an exorcism expert, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), and together, the two priests try to expel the Devil from the little girl. Cue pea soup puking, head-spinning and other things you will have heard of.
You can’t get more “cult classic” than this. The Exorcist is legendary. So much so, in fact, that it’s currently ranked as the 202nd best film in the world, according to IMDb‘s users. Don’t know about that, because it seems to take forever to actually get anywhere.
It’s over an hour before there seems to be any actual paranormal phenomena going on. Before then, it’s Karras being broody about his old mother, Merrin on an archaeological dig in Iraq, and Chris starring in a film while also being a good mother.
And then Regan starts acting really weird. Finally. Took her long enough.
It’s supposed to be a build-up, and I don’t mind a build-up … when it feels as if you’re building up to something. This felt a lot like different people who had nothing to do with each other going about their lives – for an hour. (Or an hour and a half. I can’t remember exactly. Seemed like forever.) And then suddenly, things start to happen.
Now, it’s been nearly forty years since The Exorcist came out, and back in the day, it probably was shocking to have a 12-year-old girl saying the F-word and so on. The problem is when you build a film in which that is the shocker. Nowadays, there’s no real shock value to it. She said the F word, so what? The crucifix thing, okay, that’s … unusual, but most of the supposed shock value of this film is just really dull, for lack of a better word.
The Exorcist is sort of creepy in places, but I never felt a chill down my spine, or felt compelled to close my eyes or look away, or anything like that. It just wasn’t scary enough for my taste. Maybe it works better if you’re religious, but I’m not, and projectile vomiting, bad language and grotesque make-up simply don’t scare me.
But the acting’s good.
There’s a modern re-make, I think, but I guess they’ve just taken the old film and put modern bells and whistles on it to get cheap scares from it. It doesn’t make me compelled to watch it, should I come across it.
3 out of 5 silver coins.