DIRECTOR: William Friedkin

‘The scariest film of all time?’ I think not. Back in 1998, when The Exorcist was finally re-released after its well over a decade long ban was lifted, and I saw this with a friend, not expecting to be scared out of my wits as horror films rarely have that effect on me.

But at the time, I was left very disappointed as I was subjected to a boring, ponderous 70’s horror, rather than a timeless chiller which had driven people to faint, vomit and commit suicide in its day. Upon a second viewing over the weekend, 13 years later, my opinion has improved somewhat, but scary it still was not. Interesting, yes, slow, afraid so, but was it boring? No. I think that if you find this boring then it just isn’t your cup of tea and that should be left  at that.

Horror films are not dissimilar to movies of any genre in the fact their impact is subjective. Some people scare very easily and like to be so. Others, like me, find themselves unaffected by it, mainly because of an inherent detachment, our inability to be drawn in enough to feel the fear.

I like to be chilled though and there are many chilling elements at work here. This is a bleak film and it played with you in throughout,  setting it within an upper-class environment, one synonymous with comfort and protection and the fact that the 13-year-old Ragan canon be protected from Satan’s possession implies that no-one is safe.

Then there’s the protagonist priest, Damian Carras; Disturbed by a shaken faith, mourning the loss of his mother who he feels he has neglected. He smokes, drinks and ponders, moping in melancholy, almost the antithesis of what a priest should be, but he’s likable in a way. So is Max von Sydow’s titular Exorcist. Subtly tortured, but excellently played.

The effects are what you might expect from 1973, but are still effective in that context. This is more of a character study than an out right horror film, with the majority of its 127 minutes focusing on the relationships between the characters to each other and ultimately, God.

There was some of what I would consider to be major plot-holes though, such as the seemingly extraneous character of the Lt. Kinderman, again, excellently performed by Lee J. Cobb. He was a decent character but underused. He was introduced as a response to the death of a character who was presumably murdered by the possessed Regan, but beyond asking a few questions, he did little investigating.

In the end, she was a suspect in murder and was subsequently dismissed as such from get go, a point that was still dismissed by the film’s conclusion, with makes little sense.

Overall, not as scary in 2011 as it was 38 years ago, in 1973, but for those with an interest in horror and decent 1970’s film making, this is a prime example of what made that era, but personally, I have always seen the day that Star Wars broke the through the doldrums of low-key, high brow and dreary 70’s cinema as one of the most important days in movie history.


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