← Back to Reviews

The Exorcist

what an excellent day for an exorcism
you would like that?

the Exorcist
(William Friedkin, 1973)

when a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity,
her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter


How does one write a review about such a notorious classic film and expect to bring anything new to the table? Well i suppose i don't expect to, so what you will get here is the interpretation and reflections of a viewer who is fresh off a first viewing. one who knew little about the movie going in aside from the hazy mythical cultural associations such as the vomiting demon-possessed girl, a convulsing bed, & head-spinning... what this review will also strive to provide is a viewpoint which brings no biases in the form of religious belief or lack of religious belief

where to begin? first i must say, i chose to watch the Theatrical version first, so i haven't seen the spider walk yet. i like to start with the theatrical version on any film with an extended cut so i first see the movie as audiences did when it was released. on re-watches i may turn to the extended/director's cuts

can i say i enjoyed the movie the Exorcist? hmm, in the usual sense of the word, i wouldn't classify this film on those terms. honestly, and this is what went through my head as i watched, i'd liken this film to almost a kind of drug-induced experience. from the very beginning, despite an initial perhaps slow and deliberate pace, it draws you in, and makes you curious... so that you can't pull your eyes away, like a magnetism. as it unfolds, the movie taps into unexplored territory in the brain/psyche. could sense/feel it happening. weird stuff ensues that i wouldn't have imagined in a nightmare... such as a possessed little girl stabbing herself in the nether regions with a crucifix, etc

all that being said, i very much liked the character Father Damien Karras, played by Jason Miller. from the beginning you can tell, this is a guy who is worn out by his line of work as a jesuit psychiatrist. he's had enough of having to sort through people's deep-seated issues and wants out... which he tells his supervisor early on in the story, who talks him into sticking with it. little does he know the motherload of dilemmas lies ahead with regan

whether this is necessary or not, i'll wrap spoilers here, as i wouldn't have wanted to accidentally read this part in passing before seeing the movie

WARNING: "the Exorcist" spoilers below
the ending seems to be at least somewhat ambiguous. the way i interpret it, Father Karras handles his dilemma in the best way possible... coaxing the demon out of regan and into himself. then sacrifices himself by jumping out the window. while this mends the situation for the time being as far as saving regan... i'd say it doesn't eradicate demons/evil and it doesn't necessarily ensure that regan won't be possessed again in the future. not saying that with sequels in mind as i have no clue what happens in those & i don't intend to seek them out... it is simply my insight/understanding of the story

Conclusion: this is a movie that deserves its elevated notoriety among horror films, as well as with the powerful pieces of film-making overall. i'd say that even among the newer generation, who may be prone to sneer at the notion of a film maintaining its compelling quality 41 years later, it still packs its punch. the Exorcist, while using conventional symbols of good and evil such as priests, scripture, the devil, etc, to deliver its story, taps into the plausibility of spiritual forces on our world... as this is a movie based on a book by William Peter Blatty, centered around the real-life exorcism of Roland Doe, a victim of possession treated by the Catholic Church. i haven't read much at all into this aspect, but intend to. too bad i didn't see this one prior to making my top tales of terror countdown, as it would have cracked the top 5.

10.0 / 10

fun with film history: this was an extremely successful movie financially in 1973. it made $441 million at the box office, despite a humble $10.5 million budget (generating 42x's its budget). it won two Oscars, one for best adapted screenplay (Blatty), one for best sound (Knudson, Newman), and was the first horror movie ever to be nominated for best picture. it lost to the Sting, a very different kind of movie i also liked