The Exorcist (1973)
You’ll be hard pressed to find more than a few individuals that disagree with the idea that The Exorcist is the most frightening movie history has produced. It’s one of those rare pictures that left moviegoers passing out, their brains overloaded with terror. And those reactions immediately spawned enormous interest in the film. It’s also, inarguably the very first masterful possession piece. Prior to the arrival of The Exorcist, the world saw the birth of a few features that utilized the same core idea, though no film of such nature managed to generate the interest and response that William Friedkin’s picture did. That was a game changer, plain and simple.
The story tells the tale of 12-year old sweetheart, Regan, who transforms from dream child to real life nightmare in speedy fashion. She’s been possessed by something horrifying, and it’s altered the girl’s mannerisms in a way that feels as close to unbelievable as one could imagine. Father Karras, along with Father Merrin make it their mission to free the young girl from her internal confines, abolishing the demon inside of the girl for good. But can they do so? That becomes the immediate question, and if they somehow can get the job done, what price will these men of the cloth face?
When you read a brief synopsis like that, you realize that The Exorcist isn’t some wildly multifarious story. It’s really very in-your-face, choosing not to over-tell a tale, but instead choosing to focus on monumental and emotionally taxing moments to carry the picture. That’s an excellent idea, because the truth is, The Exorcist features a few lengthy stretches that feature very little in the way of excitement or intrigue. Going not big, but immeasurably enormous in certain sequences is what provides the big payoff for viewers. Seeing a possessed child’s head spinning on its axis left our jaws on the floor. Seeing a possessed child utilize a religious symbol to mutilate her own genitals far surpassed dangerous or controversial; it was terrifying and downright nauseating to witness such astounding shots. But it just so happens to be those very shots that propelled the film into the furthest reaches of greatness. Those kinds of scenes are soldered into our minds and memories. Those kinds of scenes are exactly what it takes to produce one of the most important pictures ever made.
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