50 years old and still scary AF, M-E-E-ERRIN!!!!!
Back in 2012 when promoting his movie “Killer Joe,” I told the recently departed William Friedkin that “The Exorcist” gave me the chills. I can’t provide you the evidence because it’s long gone, but I can tell you this elevated horror film is a lot smarter and more haunting than what Warner Bros. has been producing within the “Conjuring” universe lately.
The 1973 classic horror film is celebrating its 50th anniversary by coming to theaters at the beginning of October, and has a new Blu-Ray edition and a sequel “The Exorcist: Believer” both on the way.
This article celebrates the original film, the impact it has on film lovers, and some lessons the people behind all those lousy “Conjuring” spin-off could learn from. They’ll probably never learn Fredkin’s lessons or claim that they do, but this has gone down in history as one of the scariest films of all time. And apparently, one of my older buddies saw it when he was 6, and loved it. Parents, don’t get any ideas. It will scare your kids. Even I got scared of the 2000 re-release commercial when I was 8.
You know the story, adapted from William Peter Blatty’s novel, about how the girl Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) gets possessed by the Devil (and not Captain Howdy), and her mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn) enlists the help of two priests to perform an exorcism on her. There’s Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), who has discovered something evil in Iraq, and Father Karris (Jason Miller), who has been questioning his faith lately.
You all know about the shaking bed, the deleted-then-restored spider walk, the vomiting, and all the horrible things this demon is making the girl say. You also know it takes time for Chris to realize Regan has been possessed, while doctors assume the girl need medical treatment. After all, they’re supposed to be living in reality. And the way the possessed girl shouts “M-E-E-ERRIN!” still gets me. The kind if I heard it u expectedly, I would freak out.
You also see the make-up of the possessed girl, which you can even see and admire in the dark. Half the horror films these days have the demon shown in the dark, maybe because the filmmakers think special effects look better in the dark. But this make-up is haunting.
“The Exorcist” hasn’t aged a day. It may get restorations and extended versions, but it still scares you, tests you, and dazzles you. It would sound derivative if I would call it a Friedkin classic, but it is. He’s was a filmmaker who specializes in the right genres, and knows how to break free from formulas. Even I never watched a trailer, but was surprised by his under-appreciated film “Sorcerer,” which is a lot more than the title suggests.
Getting back to this review, the movie takes it’s time in introducing us to the characters, acknowledging the demon inside the girl, and the exorcism. This was also back when CGI never existed, which means the chair looks like it’s closing the door, which means I’m not complaining in my review.
The performances are timelessly excellent, and the theme music (composed by Jack Nitzsche) couldn’t be more poignant and iconic. I’ll have to find out how David Gordon Green does with the upcoming continuation (with Burstyn reprising her role), but for now, this horror film is a scary classic.
“What an excellent day for an exorcism.”
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.