Retro Reviews: The Exorcist (1973)

Retro Reviews

The Exorcist (1973)

Regan’s mother (Chris MacNeil) is worried. Her young daughter is acting strange. But soon Chris can’t ignore that something really bizarre is happening. So when Regan’s behaviour becomes beyond freakish, Chris wastes no time seeking help. It becomes obvious that the only person that can help is- a very different kind of specialist- The Exorcist.

Maybe it was playing with the ouija board that did it, but 12 year-old Regan invited a very different playmate in. The movie, The Exorcist (1973) is a story about demonic possession and the desperate journey to end it.

The Exorcist (1973)

Chris Encounters the Demon

What The Exorcist (1973) did for the horror genre of the times was radical. It steps miles away from all the cliche situations of a typical horror film and confronts you with a completely different type of terror in the supernatural However, the most radical part of all- it actually tells a story- really- several stories. And this is what makes us care and keeps us rooted to the spot right up until the grippingly suspenseful final scene.

The film comprises three main stories which layer and overlap. The first one is the story about the exorcist himself, Catholic priest, Father Merrin. We first meet him at the very start of the film. He is in Iraq where he comes face to face with his arch enemy in a grotesque, demonic statue during an archeological dig. Although it is never revealed to us openly in the film, it is believed that this demon is somehow released at the dig, a fact that Father Merrin fully understands. This gives us the thread to follow that connects the demon and Father Merrin.

The second and most immediate story is the one already discussed- the story of Regan’s demonic possession. But it is suggested that somehow this demon is using that possession to face Father Merrin. And indeed watching the film, it is obvious the demon wants to battle the time-worn priest.

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However, we cannot discount the third story of the local priest, Father Karras- the first priest Regan’s mother approaches, in a desperate attempt to help her daughter. His touching story reveals the relationship of this younger street priest with his ill and aging mother that gives us a personal stake in his fate and adds empathy and insight into his character.

So at the moment when the stage is set and when finally, Father Merrin comes knocking on the door of the MacNeil household- a pivotal, now-famous-scene that has been re-shown and used even in parody many times since- our hearts stop in anticipation, because we realize the real fight is on.

The Exorcist (1973)

Merrin Knocks

Stellar performances by Ellen Burstyn (Chris MacNeil), Max Von Sydow (Father Merrin), Lee J. Cobb (Lt. Kinderman), Linda Blair (Regan MacNeil) and Jason Miller (Father Karras), bring the subject of demonic possession to a place of believability, reality and acceptance.

William Blatty wrote the best-selling novel and then turned it into the screenplay which was directed by William Friedkin in a way that made the attack on Regan up front and personal. Beyond a horror movie- it brings in the supernatural, possibilities and shocking footage. It has an R rating, is in parts jaw-dropping and should not be watched by children or the faint of heart.

The Exorcist became one of the most talked about films of the time. I give it a 9.7/10 for being the best movie of its genre ever-made. As a retro movie this one is a must see.

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  1. Brenda Marie
    • Lin Jenkinson

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