R, 2 hr. 2 min. Directed By: William Friedkin. Release Date: Dec 26, 1973. DVD Release Date: Dec 1, 1998.
This is one of those movies that stuck with me the first time I saw it. I still remember the scenario: I was in high school, and more than one of my friends had recommended the movie to me. I had spent the weekend working, so there’d been no fun at all, and I had a bit of homework that was looming over me. It was late, the wee hours of the evening, and my parents had gone to bed at their usual 9:00pm, so the house was both dark and quiet with the exception of my dad’s breathing. It wasn’t a snore so much as what you see in the cartoons when someone is feigning sleep: a loud inhale followed by an explosive exhale, without any of the back of the throat rattling that would characterize a snore.
I was creeped out by the time the music started. You know what music. Even now, like hmmf fmfh years later, the music still creeps me out, something it shares with the Halloween music. The Exorcist also remains the only one of these demonic possession movies that’s managed to scare me even a little. Last night, I turned this on as dusk was approaching. Twenty minutes later, it was full dark, and I hadn’t turned on a single light in the house. Then, there was the noise I heard, and then all the lights were on. There have been pretenders, copycats that have tried and failed to capture the spirit of this movie. Recently, that’s included The Rite and well, I can’t remember the one that just came out. I’m probably blocking the name because it was so terrible. The Rite had an incredible cast, and probably was the best of the pretenders, by which I mean it still sucked.
All these years later, and this is still a good time, despite the movie’s faults. I’ve never understood why the “young priest” involved in this is older than me… either that or he’s attempting to pull an Andrea Zuckerman. At a guess, I’d say Jason Miller was pushing 40 when he did that movie, putting him a few years my senior… and that’s not “young.” I also find Linda Blair’s performance disturbing. I’ve commented a few times that there are child actors who get involved in things that maybe they’re not old enough to be involved in, and this is one of those performances that supports my thoughts: the things that Blair does and says while under possession are things that no girl her age should be saying or doing. It’s why the movie is creepy, but I’m thinking it kind of tanks her innocence.
I have problems with some of the character development as well, notably Blair’s. She’s a key player, if not the lead. And I would have liked to have seen some transition between little girl and demon-possessed monster. Usually when a movie hits the 2 hour mark, I start looking at possible places to cut, but this is a movie where I would have liked to have seen the moment of weakness when the Devil or demon or whatever could have snuck in and taken that little girl.
If you haven’t seen The Exorcist, you probably should. I don’t throw around the term “modern classic,” but this is one. Every cinephile should have this in their repertoire.