After surviving the zombie apocalypse of ‘Dawn of the Dead‘, I decided to ramp things up a notch for my next JUMPSCARECUT review and take on the ultimate horror movie – The Exorcist. Truth be told, I was shit-scared all day in the lead up to watching this, but also weirdly excited to finally check out what is regarded as one of the cornerstones of the genre.
I’m sure that pretty much everyone knows what goes down in The Exorcist by now, right? Sweet, young girl gets possessed by an evil, messed up spirit, causing her to spit green shit and violent obscenities at people. In an attempt to heal her daughter, her mother seeks the help of various doctors, to no avail, and eventually resorts to religious aid in the form of an exorcism. You know, the usual trials and tribulations of raising a child.
Whilst some of the make-up and prop work leaves much to be desired, you can forgive this in a 70s horror flick, and actually, many of the practical effects (such as levitation and crab-walking down a flight of stairs) are done really cleverly. The whole thing almost plays out as a period piece, with superb set design and some fantastic visuals, including THAT classic image of the priest under the streetlight, which is just the perfect establishing shot before he embarks on the horror within.
Which leads me to the crux of the matter – just how scary is The Exorcist? Well, I haven’t had any nightmares about demonic girls telling me to “shove it up my ass”, so thankfully it hasn’t had a lasting effect on me. But it is an intensely uncomfortable, unsettling, fucked-up film, whose influence on the genre is clear to see. William Friedkin masterfully creates an experience where the viewer is forced to endure a slow-burning journey, which gradually allows fear to seep in, before completely consuming you by the end.
Whilst The Exorcist was certainly not as scary as I feared, it completely exceeded everything I anticipated in terms of its narrative and visual craft. This was right up my street when it comes to horror; give me a sharp, twisted, brooding tale over ridiculous, jumpy slashers any day.
Directed by: William Friedkin
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair