Thursday, October 13, 2011

Film #79: The Exorcist (1973)

Is your vomit pea green?
Does Holy Water make you “Holy Shit!”
Are you finding unconventional uses for crucifixes.
You might just be possessed!

Hi, I’m attorney Sam “Satan-Be-Gone” Bernstein. If you or a loved one is experiencing these and other symptoms of demonic possession, you could be entitled to millions in compensation from the likely witch who hexed you.

You know, that spinster old woman living with 12 cats in the run down American-Four-Square. Likely she’s a witch, and hexed a devil demon into your soul for running over Mr. Sparkles last week. Oh yes, she saw that.
Sure, we could burn her, but sue her first! Just call 1-800-HEAD-SPIN for your free consultation with one of our lawyers/exorcists.

It wasn’t a witch that did it, but Chris MacNeil would likely be calling that toll free number if given the chance in this week’s film, The Exorcist.
Chris MacNeil is your typical mom. You know, the one that orders her servants to make breakfast, buys horses for her daughter, and stars in the hottest motion pictures of the day.
Chris and her 12-year-old daughter Regan move to Georgetown from LA for a spell while Chris films her latest movie.

Oh, the divorcee and her spawn have a wonderful time playing with Ouija boards, screaming “Jesus Christ,” and partying with hedonistic Hollywood types. For awhile. But everything goes to Hell when Regan starts to show signs of demonic possession. And not the usual signs of demonic possession found in tweens, either. 
Instead of screaming in hate at her parents and blaring Miley Cyrus while snorting cinnamon to get high, Regan starts pissing on the floor, vomiting pure evil, and sexually assaulting herself with a crucifix. 

Girls will be girls I suppose, but worry wart Chris decides some psycho-analysis is needed. Geez, parents just don’t understand.
When know-it-all science can’t explain how Regan can levitate her bed or speak in multiple foreign languages at once, the scientists suggest Chris turn to spiritual cures instead --- an Exorcism.

Cue in Father Karras, a Georgetown psychologist whose job is to be a priest for priests. The burden of keeping holy men holy has emotionally rough on Karras, and he begins to lose faith in his religion. How can he convince other priests to trust in their faith if Karras doubts it himself?

Chris is desperate, and after learning of Karras through a priest friend begs Karras to perform an Exorcism on Regan before it is too late. After some debate, Karras reluctantly agrees. But he can’t do it alone. The Church decides to call in their Exorcism ace, Father Merrin, to assist Karras in the de-demoning.

Merrin is an old pro at removing demonic spirits from souls. Past battles in Africa and Iraq have prepared the frail old man for the task. But this just isn’t any demon possessing Regan. It might just be the Devil himself. And he's pissed off. Bad.

Can the Exorcists banish the demon from helpless Regan’s body?
Will Father Karras resort his faith in time?
Will the Cubs ever win the World Series?
Find out in the 1973 pants-peeing classic, “The Exorcist.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 4.7
Chris Dimick spews:
“Linda Blair gives a head turning role as possessed Regan! 
Okay, there, whew, now that I got that pun out of my system I can write with a clear, untwisted head.

The late 1960s, and 1970s were a magical time for scare-pix. This era was the birth of the modern horror movie. No Frankenstein, Wolf Man and Dracula allowed. The likes of those creepers had been more overdone than a McDonald’s hamburger by the late 1960s.
The genre had devolved from the talk of the town in the 30s and 40s to a b-movie/drive in graveyard.
Then came the new breed of horror with films like Rosemary’s Baby, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, and The Exorcist. These were films with no limits, no moral code, no social conscience. They were going to scare you, by any means necessary.

But overall, these films were also going to tell you a story. A compelling story, one that didn't just rely on spooky lab equipment and undead monsters to fill the 90 minutes. This was grade-A Hollywood storytelling that happened to be about the paranormal and horrific. And that is what made it great…the modern horror film respected its audience.

The Exorcist is as much a drama about the lengths a mother will go to care for her daughter as it is a special effects monster movie. There are dramatic, heart-tearing subplots, like that of Father Karras losing his faith while trying to care for his dying mother. 
There are cutesy heartwarming moments, like when mother Chris chats with daughter Regan about her birthday plans while putting her to bed. 
And, yes, there are seriously f-ed up gore-hound moments, like when the Devil possessing Regan spews hardcore obscenities and turns Regan’s head around 360 degrees. 

Even after 30 years, this movie is still shocking to watch. But what makes the horror scenes so horrifying is the film leading up to the showdown of Exorcist versus Demon has focused on real seeming people acting out real problems and joys. 

We, gasp, CARE about these people, and want to see them escape harm’s way. 
They are not just a warm meal for the superstar Dracula or a love interest for tortured Larry Talbot’s hairy, and near the end boring, Wolfman ass. 

The modern horror wave The Exorcist was a part of was equal parts envelope-pushing/feather-ruffling and straight out classic Hollywood storytelling. 
Sadly as the 1970s went on, horror films ran with the feather-ruffling but forgot to maintain a plot that justifies an audiences’ reaction. Not just repulsion, but real horror. That takes plot AND blood.

But, we always have the memories of those first few horror icons that revitalized the genre. Makes one wonder when new filmmakers will come and save horror again. Any day now guys, before another Paranormal Activity comes out.”

N-Rating: 4.5
Nick Rich projectile vomits:
"This movie chills you to the bone. 

Savage actions, surly words and all around insane acts spewing forth from the mouth of a twelve year old girl. If it feels wrong while you're watching it, it's because it is. There is plenty about this film that most people would consider inappropriate - and I would agree with them - but I highly doubt a demon (or Satan himself) would act cordially given the circumstances portrayed in this film. 
Whether or not this is an excuse to involve a child in such portrayals (even if it is just make-believe) I won't comment on... but one thing is for sure: it was disturbing.

Someone needs to gank a free bib from Red Lobster!
Many times during this film (usually with the possession scenes) Chris and I found ourselves involuntarily holding our collective breath due to the amount of tension being delivered to us via the screen. To say it is intense is to define understatement. 
The way this film was shot slowly sucked you in and held you captive as it increasingly beat you over the brow with the pure unadulterated horror of the situation... a horror that we as an audience feel powerless to escape. 
It's almost as if we are trapped inside Regan's body with her or along with her mother as she witnesses the love of her life slowly being violently ripped away from her.

What to get for the mother who has everything?
An evil spirit to possess your only child!
The layers of the film are peeled back slowly, compounding the feelings of empathy and helplessness the viewer has for the characters. Have a problem? Oh, just go see a doctor. One doctor doesn't cut it? Just go see a group of 13 doctors (comprised of old balding white guys with a dash of lady, black and asian M.D.'s), they'll get to the bottom of it! 

Ooo... they don't know what's up? Hrmm... well, I guess you could always try a priest! I mean, their methods don't work because of the reason they think they do (after all, doctors don't believe in "magic"), but they have been proven to work in the past.
I mean, there has to be a logical reason for the girls unearthly symptoms! Right? So the faithless family reaches the end of their rope and reaches for faith or at least those who have faith. Will it work? Is any of this real? What is happening?!?

Watching this film says as much about the viewer as it does about the filmmakers and the time it was made in. Which is what makes it great; it challenges us. 
How long can you deny the mysteries of this life? What do you do when you've reached the end of your own understanding? How do you react when confronted with something bigger than you are? 

Sometimes prayer is the only option.
The Exorcist will leave you staring these questions square in the eye - dare you answer them?
The Skinny: Check this flick out if you haven't experienced proper chills in awhile (but be forewarned, there are some truly vulgar parts in this film) or if you think yourself incapable of being speechless.

Things We Learned from The Exorcist:
-If you want to affect change, you have to do it in the system.
-The Middle East has a spicy call to prayer.
-Nick secretly wants to be Catholic.
-Chris vacations in Northern Iraq for their superb discotheques.
-Hard thinking makes one bald.
-Nick’s mom said it best: “Protect your nuts.”
-If British scientists didn’t ask “What is this fungus?” we wouldn’t have penicillin.
-Saudi Arabian men grind-dance each other:

Quote of the Viewing:
[During a rollicking Hollywood cast party at the MacNeil residence, innocent yet possessed Regan walks down the stairs and urinates on the floor in-front of horrified party guests.]

Chris: “The only thing worse than a party-pooper is a party-pisser.”

RDHP Presents:

Random Exorcist Facts
All of the intrigue and horror didn’t just happen in this classic horror film. Many strange and interesting occurrences happened before and during the filming of The Exorcist.  Below, we present a few oddities, thanks to our friends at the Internet Movie Database.

The bedroom set had to be refrigerated to capture the authentic icy breath of the actors in the exorcising scenes. Linda Blair, who was only in a flimsy nightgown, says to this day she cannot stand being cold.

The substance that the possessed Regan (Linda Blair) hurls at Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is thick pea soup. Specifically, it's Andersen's brand pea soup. The crew tried Campbell's but didn't like the "effect."

The original teaser trailer, which consisted of nothing but images of the white-faced demon quickly flashing in and out of darkness, was banned in many theaters, as it was deemed "too frightening".

William Peter Blatty was collecting unemployment benefits while writing the novel this film is based on.

This is Warner Brothers' highest grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation.
While it cost $10.4 million to make, its worldwide gross was $357 million.

A filmgoer who saw the movie in 1974 during its original release fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He then sued Warner Brothers and the filmmakers, claiming that the use of subliminal imagery in the film had caused him to pass out. The studio settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Christian evangelist Billy Graham claimed an actual demon was living in the celluloid reels of this movie.

After filming, William Friedkin brought post-production to the address 666 Fifth Avenue.

One of the most famous scenes in the movie and the shot used for the posters and the cover of the DVD/VHS releases was inspired by the 1954 painting "Empire of Light" ("L'Empire des lumières") by René Magritte (above). It is the scene where Fr. Merrin steps out of a cab and stands in front of the MacNeil residence bathed in an eerie glow.

The studio wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Father Merrin. William Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating that with Brando in the film it would become a Brando movie instead of the important film he wanted to make.

Due to death threats against Linda Blair from religious zealots who believed the film "glorified Satan", Warner Bros. had bodyguards protecting her for six months after the film's release.

Entertainment Weekly and Maxim magazines recently voted this the Scariest Movie of All Time.

This was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture Academy Award. However, it lost in the award to The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as two con men in 1930s Chicago.


  1. I just discovered your blog. Hello awesome. I am a huge horror fan and love the movies that you chose.

  2. Welcome to the RDHP, LadyJ3000! Glad you enjoy the site. Thanks for reading!