The Exorcist (1973)

the exorcist poster 1973 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great acting, great story, great visuals


Movie Info

Movie Name: The Exorcist

Studio: Warner Brothers

Genre(s): Horror/Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  December 26, 1973

MPAA Rating:  R

exorcist father merrin pazuzu statue max von sydow

The battle between good and evil is coming!

A battle of good and evil is about to be fought in a home in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  Actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) notices that something appears to be wrong with her teen daughter Regan (Linda Blair).  When a tragedy occurs outside the MacNeil’s home, Chris realizes that Regan’s life is in mortal danger that doctors and psychiatrists can’t seem explain.  Turning toward a priest named Damian Karras (Jason Miller), Chris is desperate to save Regan as she gets worse.  An exorcism might be in order and Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) and Karras could be the only hope…but Detective William F. Kinderman (lee J. Cobb) and his investigation is beginning to close in.

exorcist jason miller ellen burstyn

They send me to you and then you want to send me back to them

Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist is a supernatural horror drama.  William Peter Blatty adapted his bestselling 1971 horror novel The Exorcist for the big screen and the film was released to positive reviews and a massive box office return.  The film won Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Burstyn), Best Actor (Miller), Best Supporting Actress (Blair), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Direction, and Best Film Editing.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2010.

The Exorcist is legendary.  I read the book before I ever saw the movie (which I read it too young), but I fell in love with the story of horror, drama, and mystery.  In college, I wrote a paper on The Exorcist (largely focusing on the shock aspect versus the religious aspect) and as a result saw it multiple times.  I revisit the film occasionally and still find it a great film loaded with nuances and meaning…The Exorcist is one of those perfect films.

exorcist demon face captain howdy

Hi, I’m Captain Howdy…want to play?

While many decried the horror, the language, and the imagery presented in The Exorcist, it is largely pro-religion.  The characters are searching for answers through the whole movie.  They are non-believers who are attacked by something that can only be stopped by belief in the most divine sense.  Even Miller’s Father Karras has reached a point of doubt, but the possession helps bring him back into the fold.  This religious message is wrapped in a drama about mothers and their children and an even a bit of a mystery surrounding Regan’s possession…why does the demon sometimes appear to be almost manufactured?  The answer would probably be to sow doubt because it is a manipulator that is at war with faith.

exorcist head spin cross scene

Did she tell you what she did?

Like the plot, the cast is at their best.  Ellen Burstyn rarely fails to impress, but her turn as an actress who is at her wit’s end in her attempt to save her daughter rivals all the roles that followed.  Miller whose career didn’t take off from The Exorcist brings a weight to his role with his heavy dark eyes that seem to show his struggle…he is great at emoting his emotions in silence.  Max von Sydow was only in his early forties when he played Merrin but it is a credit to both the make-up and his acting that he plays the elderly priest so well.  The “star” of The Exorcist of course is Linda Blair who brings one of the most horrifying creatures on screen to life.  In scenes where the demon is not in control or starting to take control, she does come off as a teen that is very real…but this quickly turns with shocking scenes of vulgarity that still raise eyebrows.

It could easily be argued that a lot of the movie’s power comes from the special effects which has spinning heads, flying pea soup, and the long tongued demon spouting moans and groans in tongues while battling the priests…but to just consider that is a disservice to Friedkin’s directing which makes a great looking drama that just happens to be a horror movie.  The iconography and visions of the film outside of the possession are still chilling (and “Tubular Bells” is still creepy).

exorcist vomit scene linda blair

The demonstrations of how COVID-19 spreads is getting out of control

The Exorcist is frequently listed by people as the scariest film of all times.  It has earned this title.  It doesn’t really have jump scares and most of the deaths aren’t seen, but it does it through a sense of dread that hangs over the whole picture from the beginning in Iraq with the statue of Pazuzu to even the ending where the credits roll…it is unsettling.  Friedkin released a director’s cut called The Exorcist:  The Version You’ve Never Seen to theaters in 2000 which added some scenes which expanded the context of the story (and the creepy spider scene), but either version works alone.  The Exorcist was followed by Exorcist II:  The Heretic in 1977 (which many consider one of the worst films of all time) and then followed Exorcist II with William Peter Blatty’s true sequel adapting his Legion novel as The Exorcist III in 1990 (and eliminating the plotline of Exorcist II).  Two competing prequel films (due to disputes during shooting) Exorcist:  The Beginning and Dominion:  Prequel to the Exorcist which tell Father Merrin’s story were released in 2004 and 2005.

Related Links:

Exorcist II:  The Heretic (1977)

The Exorcist III (1990)

Exorcist:  The Beginning (2004)

Dominion:  Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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