Tis’ the season of trick or treat, as the classic horror films continue to pop on cable T.V. After forty-two years, The Exorcist still remains one of the most successful horror movies of all time. This Warren Brothers '70s classic is bound to send chills down your spine.
The movie consists of a basic plot line of an oblivious mother, Mrs. McNeil (Ellen Burstyn), who suspects the demonic possession of her daughter, Regan (Linda Blair), after realizing a rat problem was never an explanation (The Exorcist). Throughout the story, doctors continue to pawn off the bed shaking, growling and ever-so-obvious scratched look on Blair’s face as a “mental illness.” Eighty-eight doctors later, Burstyn goes berserk and demands an exorcism (The Exorcist).
The special effects and acting are bound to leave a haunting impact. Moreover, the overall theme of testing faith is just as fascinating. The special effects give the audience a subtle sense of eeriness, as they jump out of their seats. Throughout the movie, clashes and thumps hint something bazar is in the house (The Exorcist). Demonic faces pop up subtly, but what really traumatizes the audience is the grand finale-final exorcism. When the doors break, Blair’s body floats up, and her head makes a full 360. Blair laughs undeniably and looks like a tranquillian doll, as green vomit lands on the priests. These effects may seem cheesy to the 2015 kid. Nonetheless, they were revolutionary to the film industry.
The movie was made in the '70s when people never experienced anything as convincing. The perfect timing of these special effects were done with ease and really enhanced the story. The acting on the other hand, only enhanced the realism of the effects, making them all the more enjoyable. The acting was superb, as it resulted in several academy awards. Twelve- year old Blair does a phenomenal job playing Regan, the possessed daughter of Mrs. McNeil. Regan’s character is rather complex because it contains multiple people inhabiting one body. For instance, one moment she is a sweet little girl, who loves her mother; the next she is the devil himself. Blair pulled off these character transitions excellently. For example, when Blair visited a psychiatrist due to her “mental illness,” the psychiatrist performed hypnosis and asked a series of questions, thus releasing the demon inside. This resulted in an astounding character transition, as an emotionless look is mastered by Blair’s face. The character transitions she made throughout this movie were remarkable, as if something had actually taken over her.
Mrs. McNeil (Burstyon), however, played the loving parent role to a key. Although she was in denial about her religious beliefs, she later realized her daughter must be possessed by the devil. Burstyon gave up on doctors for once for all, as they continued to claim this was a “vascular displacement” in Regan’s brain. She hysterically cried, “Do you see her or not! She’s out of her fucking mind! With a split personality!” The look on Burstyon’s face could not have been any more convincing, as tears dripped down her cheeks. Burstyon develops a change in her character by giving up on the minds of men, and turning to God in hopes of finding a witch doctor. The character development that she created left the audience wanting more.
Blair and Burstyon are amazing actors individually, but do an even greater job of responding to the special effects in order to create a realistic vibe all throughout the film. For example, Burstyon storms into Blair’s room after hearing Blair scream from her bed shaking. Blair cries, “Make it stop! Mother, make it stop!” Therefore, Blair and Burstyon cry together, holding faces filled with genuine fear. The mother daughter connection that is shared is extremely realistic and heart wrenching, especially when life gets rough. The movie’s overall theme of testing faith is fascinating as well. In the beginning of the film, Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) performs an exorcism in Iraq. He follows a light that leads him to the edge of a ditch, and finds a creepy head, representing a daemonic spirit on the other side of the ditch. This symbolizes shows that Father Merrin is called to America to finish what he started. It is interesting to find that the movie is about Father Merrin’s journey, yet he appears only twice in the film, once at the beginning, and once at the end, where, spoiler alert- he dies. This creates a mysterious aspect of the movie, making it all the more chilling, nonetheless enhancing the theme of God’s faith versus the devil. Once Father Merrin dies, Father Karras (Jason Miller) makes a bargain with the devil and asks to take him instead. Father Karras claims he has“little faith,” and is not deserving of God’s salvation, therefore, Regan is now freed. Throughout the movie, there is a constant struggle between good and evil. After Father Karras sacrifices himself to the devil, the audience is left to question the winner of this battle between good and evil.
This movie is a must see for all horror junkies, or even those who just love the classics. The acting and special effects intertwine together, like bread and butter. They are also suspenseful as well as realistic, giving the audience a subtle sense of eeriness. The overall theme of faith, however, is an extra plus that will leave the audience in awe.