I wonder if this is what it feels like to be someone who has never seen Star Wars – another cult classic that nearly everyone else but you have seen. I wonder. This is my first viewing of The Exorcist and before watching it, I basically knew everything about it, including the ending. I guess, then, it really just comes down to how the movie does apart from its already known elements. It really comes down to its heart and soul – how the movie operates rather than the individual things that happen. Those are things I couldn’t really predict, and as it turns out, are probably the most important elements of this film. Let’s get into it.
Linda Blair stars as Regan, a young girl that just so happens to be possessed by what seems to be a number of demons. Her mother has no idea how to help her – she brings her to doctors, who can’t really help her. She tries to wait it out on the off-chance it might just be a sickness or mental illness…but deep down, she knows its something out of this world. So she enlists the help of two priests to exorcise her – a process that Catholics still do, but it’s not as simple as 1, 2, demon be gone.
While this film is currently classified as horror, that’s actually not the case anymore. Back in 1973, this movie would no doubt be classified in that genre. It presented things never before seen in film. Words and actions coming out of a young girl that would shock and offend you. Imagery that would linger in your mind long after you went to bed…these were the reasons why this was absolutely horror. Those qualities that were unheard of 43 years ago are all over the place in today’s world, which lessens the impact of such “terrifying” scenes. People forget that those aforementioned qualities only present themselves in the last half hour of this two-hour-long film. The first hour and a half dealt with a lot of really interesting things.
In the first 90 minutes, we are introduced to all of the characters and their own backstories. Each individual had a reason to be there, and it wasn’t just because they were a priest and that’s their job – no…they had deep, emotionally driven past that led them to that point. Regan’s mother, being a famous actress, had connections and money to get her child the help she would need if she really was just mentally ill – but she knew it was more than that. Also, Regan’s transformation was a slow build-up that would be incredibly boring if you exclusively look at this like it’s a horror film. Don’t. It is a character-driven drama with a paranormal kick that comes to a head in the end.
The only, I repeat, only issues I had with this film came down to translation and the basic plot that has been butchered in other projects since. No, I have never seen this movie, but I’ve seen countless films that also dealt with exorcism, and it’s always the same basic routine, changed up a little. The Exorcist had that same routine without the extra condiments. It’s relatively basic because it kept things simple. That’s great if it is 1973, but it’s been 43 years since it has been out. We are quickly approaching its 50th anniversary. There’s no way anyone can watch this with a fresh and unaltered mind anymore, and that’s really too bad.
If you’ve never seen The Exorcist, get out there and give it a try. You’ll be surprised at the fully-developed plot it has, and all the care it took to tell a story without just making a “scary movie”. Check it out!