It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then I tend to get criticized for NOT owning a particular movie. I always find it funny and almost every time, I give the same response, that being that just because I don’t own the movie doesn’t mean I haven’t seen it. Take this movie for instance. Now I was not alive when this originally was released in theaters but I had seen it several times on cable and rented it many times from Blockbuster. However, my favorite memory of this movie was actually from when I saw it when it was re-released in 2000. When I watched this in theaters, and it got to the scene where Regan did the upside down spider walk down the stairs, a woman that was sitting behind me started screaming and literally ran screaming down the stairs and out of the theater, and, callow as it may make me seem, I couldn’t help but laugh. Anyways, let’s get right into today’s movie, which is also one of the most influential horror films of all times, The Exorcist.
The plot: In Northern Iraq, A veteran Catholic priest named Lankester Merrin is taking part in an archaeological dig. When some small artifacts are discovered, including a strange amulet and the head of a small statue, Merrin appears to recognize them and suddenly decides that he must leave, telling his friend that he has something he must do. In Georgetown, actress Chris MacNeil is woken by a strange noise and goes to check on her daughter Regan before heading downstairs, where she speaks with the two caretakers of the house she is renting before heading off to the university, where she is filming a movie for her friend Burke Dennings. As she returns home, she passes by a nearby church and hears two priests talking outside but as she stops to listen more, a passing plane makes it impossible to hear. That night, one of the priests, Damien Karras, returns home to New York and helps care for his injured mother. Meanwhile, Chris and Regan are in the basement of the house when Chris finds a Ouija board and asks Regan about it. Regan says she found it in the closet and Chris suggest playing it but when the pointer moves on it’s own, Regan says that Captain Howdy, her imaginary friend, moved it because he doesn’t want Chris to play. That night, Regan climbs into bed with Chris , claiming her bed was shaking and she couldn’t sleep. Chris goes to check Regan’s bed but gets distracted by some noises coming from the attic and goes to check them out, but doesn’t see anything. The next day, Chris takes Regan to the doctor and after her examination, the doctor speaks with Chris about Regan’s strange behavior and cursing. Meanwhile, Karras goes back to New York to check on his mother, who has been placed in a mental institution but she soon dies, which causes Karras to have a crisis of faith. At a wrap party held at Chris’ house, Burke gets drunk and gets into a fight with another guest and then is sent home. Later, Regan comes downstairs and tells one of the guests, an astronaut, that he is going to die up there, then proceeds to pee on the carpet. After the guests leave and Chris cleans up Regan, she puts her to bed but Regan starts screaming and Chris goes back in her room to see the bed violently shaking with Regan on top of it. Chris takes Regan back to the doctor, who believes it might be something in Regan’s brain causing her actions but though they run a battery of tests, they can’t find anything physically wrong with her. After Regan returns home, the doctors are called to the house when Regan begins violently thrashing about before she strikes one of them and begins yelling at them to fuck her. After the doctors manage to sedate Regan, they continue to think that there is something physically wrong with her brain and want to do some more tests. When Chris goes to the doctor to find out the results, Sharon (Chris’ friend and Regan’s tutor) goes to get Regan’s medicine and calls Burke to watch Regan. When Chris returns, she finds the house empty and the lights flickering and Regan’s window wide open. She yells at Sharon for leaving Regan alone and Sharon tells her that Burke was watching her when a colleague shows up to tell them Burke had died not to far from the house. When the associate leaves, Chris and Sharon are horrified to see Regan upside down and spider walking down the stairs, with her mouth full of blood. A week later, Karras is running around the university track when he is approached by Lieutenant William Kinderman, who is investigating Burke’s death. He asks Karras about witchcraft, wondering if the recent desecration of a statue of the Virgin Mary in the church is connected to the murder, wanting Karras to use his background in psychology to help with a profile of a possible suspect but Karras is reluctant to help. Meanwhile, the doctors are still puzzled by Regan’s behavior and want to have her placed in an institute but when Chris refuses, one of the doctors suggests an exorcism. When Chris returns home with Regan, she finds a crucifix under Regan’s pillow and asks Sharon and the caretakers if they put it there but they all claim not to have done it. Kinderman has been continuing his investigation and notices that Regan’s window overlooks the stairs that Burke had fallen down. He speaks with Chris about his suspicion, asking if Regan might have noticed Burke in her room that night, but Chris is unable to help him. After Kinderman leaves, Chris hears screams coming from Regan’s room and when she gets there, she finds Regan stabbing herself in the crotch with the crucifix. Chris tries to get it away from her and Regan suddenly grabs Chris and shoves her face in her crotch, before striking her across the face. As Sharon and Carl (the caretaker) start to head to the room, the door is suddenly closed and a chair placed in front of it, then a dresser moves towards Chris in an attempt to crush her. She manages to get away just as Regan’s head turns 180 degrees and taunts Chris about what Regan is doing. Chris meets with Karras and begs him to do an exorcism but he says that he doesn’t know any priest that has actually performed an exorcism but there are procedures that the church must do before they could even try and attempt one. Chris convinces Karras to examine Regan for himself and he reluctantly agrees to go, but says he will do it as a psychologist. When they get to the house, Karras enters Regan’s room to find Regan strapped to the bed, with wounds and lesions on her face. As Karras speaks with Regan, Regan says that his mother is in their with her, which unnerves him and as he leaves the house, he asks Chris if Regan knew that his mother had died. The next day, Karras returns with some recording equipment and pretending to have a vial of Holy water, douses Regan with it and records what she begins speaking out. Later, Karras has a friend listen to it who tells him that she is speaking backwards. When Sharon calls him and has him come over, she takes him to Regan’s room, where etched in her stomach are the words “Help Me.” Karras goes to the bishop and tells him that he believes an exorcism is warranted and the bishop says he will make the arrangements. When Karras leaves, the bishop speaks with another priest, who recommends that Karras assist with the exorcism, then suggest the call Merrin, who had performed an exorcism in Africa years ago. Merrim arrives at the house and has Karras get some necessary supplies, then begins warning Karras about how the demon will try and stop them. Merrin and Karras enter Regan’s room and begin performing the exorcism while dealing with the demon’s attempts to stop them. When the demon subsides, MErrin tells Karras that they should rest before continuing, then goes into the bathroom to take some pills for his heart. Meanwhile, Karras goes to check on Regan’s restraints, and the demon taunts him by claiming to be his mother. Karras begins yelling at Regan and Merrin dismisses him, choosing to continue the exorcism on his own. Karras goes downstairs and Chris speaks with him briefly, helping to restore his faith. He heads back into Regan’s room to find Merrin has died of a heart attack. When he fails to revivie him, Karras grabs Regan and starts yelling at the demon to leave Regan and enter him and when it does, he leaps out the window and falls down the steps before it can take full control. Chris enters the room along with Kinderman, who had just shown up and they find Regan back to normal and see Karras’ body on ground below. As a crowd forms around the body, Father Dyer, a friend of Karras, shows up and administers last rites to Karras before he dies. A few days later, Father Dyer stops by the house as Chris and Regan are moving out and Chris tells him that Regan doesn’t remember anything about the possession but when she sees his priest’s collar, Regan quickly gives Dyer a kiss on the cheek, indicating that she might have some memories left over. After they leave, Kinderman shows up at the house, having just missed them, and begins talking with Dyer, striking up a friendship with the priest.
The Exorcist met with mixed reviews originally but has since increased it’s reputation over the years, currently holding a certified fresh rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “The Exorcist rides its supernatural theme to magical effect, with remarkable special effects and an eerie atmosphere, resulting in one of the scariest films of all time.” The movie was a box office success, earning $66.3 million domestically off of a $12 million budget but after the re-releases in theaters, it has since gone on to gross over $441 million worldwide. The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning two of them, and was the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture. Long considered to be the best horror movie of all time, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010.
After 44 years, this movie still holds up as being one of the G.O.A.T.s of horror movies. The acting was really good, with Ellen Burstyn (Chris) and Jason Miller (Karras) doing great jobs in their roles while Linda Blair put in an iconic performance as Regan. The story was really good, with the first hour being a slow build-up before things get more exciting for the rest of the movie. The various themes going on in the movie, such as a mother’s devotion to her daughter’s well being, and Karras’ crisis of faith and battle to regain it give this movie a very emotional tone that actually makes the horror aspects that much more effective and real. The special effects were pretty good, with the make up for Regan being especially creepy. With the later release, I am glad they were able to digitally remove the guide wires for Regan’s spider walk but I did think the addition of random demonic faces, especially in the kitchen, was a bit much. A great movie that is really worth watching.
Rating: 5 out of 5