Film Review: The Exorcist (1973)

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Director William Friedkin took a frank, realistic approach to William Peter Blatty’s tale of demonic possession and struck fear in the hearts of moviegoers worldwide. Today’s more hardened and less superstitious audience may not permit the film to get under their skin like it did the crowds of yesteryear, but The Exorcist remains a superlative piece of film artistry and craftsmanship.

The story centers around a mother and daughter (Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn) who are frantic to find a medical explanation for the young girl’s increasingly horrifying behavior. It starts with little things, like peeing on the carpet in the middle of a dinner party, but escalates to… well, let’s just say a very naughty use for a crucifix. And then, of course, you have the famous pea soup projectile vomiting. Just as all hope seems lost, enter Jason Miller and Max von Sydow as Catholic priests who attempt to save the girl by provoking her unholy inhabitant.

Stars Burstyn, Blair, and Miller were each nominated for Academy Awards. Burstyn, who would soon afterwards win an Oscar for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, puts an exclamation point on the ‘frantic mother’ archetype while young Linda Blair delivers one of the most shocking and controversial film performances of all time as twelve-year old Regan.

Adding to the film’s realism is the absence of a traditional musical score, inventive sound design, and frightening makeup effects by Dick Smith. In addition to its acting nominations, the film was also Oscar-nominated for best picture, director, editing, cinematography, and art direction. It won the awards for best adapted screenplay (by William Peter Blatty) and sound.

I’m not a superstitious or religious person, but Friedkin’s frank, realistic handling of the material pulls me into the story and the superlative leading performances keep me thoroughly engaged. Bottom line: The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror films ever made.

Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★½ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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