Is The Exorcist the best horror movie ever made? Based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel and directed by William Friedkin, the 1973 movie was a smash hit when it was first released and its significance and influence on the genre has not diminished in the years since.
The Exorcist perfectly epitomised much of what made 70s classic horror movies so enduring – the movies took the subject matter very seriously. The Exorcist itself struck a raw nerve with the general public at the time, famously inducing extreme emotional responses from audiences.
I never watched The Exorcist until late in life. Back in 1973, the movie was banned in Singapore and subsequently rated M18 with cuts made to “a scene of a disfigured statue of the Virgin Mary”, and “a scene of the possessed girl stabbing herself in the crotch with a crucifix while uttering ‘Jesus fuck you!'”
Thus, the movie was not banned due to its horror elements but under the offending categories of “films that denigrate any religious group” and “language that denigrates religion or is religiously profane”!
Which is ironic when you consider that the movie actually expresses a belief in God and portrays a final victory over the demon due to the sacrifices of two Roman Catholic priests. But as usual, what do civil servants know about pop culture?
Most of the attention surrounding the movie is focused on the scenes of possession where there are horrific moments involving the possessed girl Regan (Linda Blair) for example, head-turning, spider-walking, projectile vomiting and of course the aforementioned “blasphemous” conduct.
However, these scenes really only come into play around the hour mark. Prior to that, the movie is setting up a couple of scenarios. The background of the demon involving Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) at an archeological dig in Iraq, the troubled life of Father Karras (Jason Miller), the Jesuit psychiatrist and the quest of actress Chris Macneil (Ellen Burstyn) to deal with her daughter Regan’s psychological issues.
Ultimately, all paths converge into the exorcism in question and by that time, the visceral nature of the demon possession is portrayed so realistically that the movie can be truly disturbing, especially for anyone with a sensitive disposition.
Which is ultimately why The Exorcist works – the story is believable and relatable. The various sequences were quite cleverly staged, in an era prior to sophisticated special effects, the audience is drawn and immersed deep into this nightmarish vision.
Thus, The Exorcist fully deserves its accolades and plaudits – it is indeed one of the scariest movies of all time and perhaps the best horror movie ever. Make sure you watch it in the dead of night for maximum impact!
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