The Exorcist is regarded by many as the greatest horror movie of all time and I think that is a rightful claim. Never have I seen a movie quite like The Exorcist nor have I been a part of a visual experience that elevated my nerves and “scare senses” as much as this movie. The film begins in northern Iraq, where Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is at an archaeological dig site. He finds a small Roman Catholic medallion and a stone resembling a demon of some sort. When he sees this stone, it is clear that he is rattled. In the United States, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is a priest at Georgetown University who is battling with his faith, partially due to his mother’s sickness. Then there is the actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), who is filming a movie in Georgetown and also taking care of her daughter, Regan (Linda Blair).
This movie begins very slowly, with emphasis on the viewers becoming attached to each of the characters. Eventually, things start to go wrong. The church in Georgetown is vandalized and Regan begins to act just a little bit strange. When this movie picks up, it picks up quick and the viewer is in for a rollercoaster ride until the end. What this movie masters is atmosphere, subtlety, and intimacy. From the beginnings in northern Iraq to Georgetown, this movie captures the sense that something is just slightly off. It could be a sound in the attic, dogs fighting, or a chilling wind, but this movie subtlety slides in many clues that a spirit of some sort is present and it is slowly working its way into Regan.
The intimacy of the film also makes the viewers fall in love with the characters. Father Karras’ love for his mother and Regan’s disappoint when her father doesn’t call her on her birthday are all very real feelings many viewers can easily relate to. So when everything goes wrong, we have those feelings to hang onto and attach to the characters we love. From a filming point of view, The Exorcist captures horror through shock. The shock is handed out through quick cutaway scenes that don’t necessarily make the viewer jump, but make the viewer feel uneasy and as if they're waiting for the next quick snapshot of something disturbing. Then the shock is shown through the actions of Regan herself. How can such a sweet innocent girl turn into something so monstrous? My eyes literally couldn’t blink when I saw some of the things Regan did, which I will not give away.
This movie is very psychological and it seeps into the viewer’s brain quite easily. You will question your own faith and experience the battle between good and evil. On the whole, there is nothing wrong with this film. Even when the beginning is slow, I didn’t find myself bored whatsoever. Horror island isn’t going to receive some weak little demon; instead, it's receiving the devil himself. Since the devil is now a part of the island, it seems quite fitting to give him his throne and crown. I don’t see many other horror island inhabitants questioning the devil or battling against him. The king of horror island has arrived and his reign appears to be long and illustrious.
If you liked The Exorcist, you might also like The Devil Inside and The Possession.