The Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin
Max Von Sydow/Father Merrin
Jason Miller/Father Karras
Regan (Blair) is a sweet little girl: her head spins around, she vomits green slime, she masturbates with a crucifix and loves to levitate. You guessed it, our little angel is possessed by an evil spirit. Bring on the priests!
For a film shot in 1973, this one doesn't pull any punches. Watching this flick is like going a few rounds with Satan himself. It hits you from all sides until it knocks you out. Now I just returned from seeing the "new" version with the extra 11 minutes. I didn't see many differences apart from more hospital scenes and the famous spider walk sequence so I won't compare both versions too much. I will say that the extra hospital scenes build more momentum and character sympathy (for Regan) and that the spider walk took me by surprise and creeped the shite out of me, very effective.
This film works so well because it’s character driven. You get to know these people, you get to care about them and then you get pulled in when all the crazy stuff happens. All the actors are dead on and the fact that the effects are flawless makes the gruesome happenings even more shocking.
The film does have its flaws. My main problems are: It goes on a bit too long and I didn't like the director's tendency to show half a second scenes. I know those scenes are meant to build the characters but they didn't have to be so short. I also didn't care too much for the LT Kinderman (Cobb) subplot. Did we really need his point of view on the happenings? I didn't, could've trimmed some time off the film by removing him. At least the actor that plays him (Lee J Cobb) is a funny guy.
Apart from that this flick is perfect. A lot of people had trouble with the ending…I didn't. Compare this flick to the recent slew of possession flicks we've been getting : Bless The Child, Stigmata, Lost Souls, End Of Days etc. It kicks all of their asses.
Exorcist has it all : Solid story, solid acting, developed characters, disturbing effects and a no holds barred approach to it all. Let's revisit a classic.
The effects are astounding. Heads spinning, crucifix penetrations, vomit spitting. Not lots of blood but lots of goo. The spider walk scene is breathtaking.
Ellen Burstyn (Chris) is all emotion, you don't think for one second that she's acting. Max Von Sydow (Merrin) doesn't have much dialogue but his character is expressed with every glance, every movement. Jason Miller (Karras) reminded me of Rocky. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he's such a good man. It helps that the good man is played by a wonderful actor. Linda Blair (Regan) does the little girl thing perfectly and the demonic thing way too truly. Lee J Cobb (Kinderman) is amusing but I didn't care for his character.
T & A
Friedkin goes for a realistic feel and sometimes injects the film with hints of style. I loved the subliminal images of the demon, it creeped me out big time. He also plays with sounds brilliantly. This film almost feels like a documentary, very real. But the smoke machine and the one second scenes reminded me that I was watching a film.
Who can forget the classic Exorcist tune. Still works. I didn't care too much for the new music.
Good story + fully developed characters + brilliant effects + aggressive approach= horror classic. This film grabs you out of your seat and makes no apology for it. The Exorcist is still one of the top horror movies of all time.
Friedkin first showed the newly restored version to Blatty in a Manhattan office building whose address, believe it or not, was 666 Fifth Avenue. "This is the version Bill Blatty always believed in," Friedkin said, "and it's taken me 26 years to see why and finally agree with him. The restored footage not only deepens the spiritual foundation of the film, but adds some truly terrifying moments as well."
LT Kinderman returns in Exorcist 3 but this time he's played by George C Scott.