The Exorcist

The Exorcist


Novelist William Peter Blatty based his best-seller on the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States. Blatty transformed the little boy in the 1949 incident into a little girl named Regan, played by 14-year-old Novelist William Peter Blatty based his best-seller on the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States. BlattyLinda Blair. Suddenly prone to fits and bizarre behavior, Regan proves quite a handful for her actress-mother, Chris MacNeil (played by Ellen Burstyn, although Blatty reportedly based the character on his next-door neighbor Shirley MacLaine). When Regan gets completely out of hand, Chris calls in young priest Father Karras (Jason Miller), who becomes convinced that the girl is possessed by the Devil and that they must call in an exorcist: namely, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow). His foe proves to be no run-of-the-mill demon, and both the priest and the girl suffer numerous horrors during their struggles. The Exorcist received a theatrical rerelease in 2000, in a special edition that added 11 minutes of footage trimmed from the film’s original release and digitally enhanced Chris Newman’s Oscar-winning sound work.

Exorcist AnimatedCast:
  Ellen Burstyn – (Chris MacNeil)
  Linda Blair – (Regan MacNeil)
  Max von Sydow – (Father Merrin)
  Jason Miller – (Father Damien Karras)
  Kitty Winn – (Sharon)

The Trailer


It’s been over 30 years since “The Exorcist” raised the bar for horror movies, trading more on its chilling psychological effects than its ability to provide cheap spooks.

Because its story of a 12-year-old girl (Linda Blair) possessed by the devil quarries so deeply in the viewer’s psyche, it remains more frightening than any teenage slasher flick (save, perhaps, the original “Halloween”) — even if it has become every-so-slightly campy with age.

Partially an exploration (and exploitation) of religious faith, the movie’s timeless ability to terrify depends on its strong performances.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jason Miller is the soul of the film as Father Karras, a Catholic priest who has begun to question his faith. Reluctantly recruited for spiritual aid by a desperate mother (Ellen Burstyn) whose angelic daughter has gone from mild mood-swings to devil-spawn demeanor, his suppressed fear adroitly enhances the audience’s own rampant unease.

Most effective, of course, is young Linda Blair, who gives an exhaustingly hexed performance, moving from innocence and light into flailing, screaming, spitting, growling, huffing and barking unnerving obscenities — all of which should be laughably absurd coming from a 12-year-old. But it isn’t absurd. It’s petrifying, because in her portrayal Blair never forgets that somewhere inside all that there’s a traumatized little girl.

Director William Friedkin (who went on to direct “Jade” and this year’s “Rules of Engagement”) keeps the audience on edge from the very early going with even the most innocuous-sounding hints at what’s to come. The chirpy way cherubic Regan (Blair) explains to her mother that someone named Captain Howdy controls her Ouija board makes the words “Captain Howdy” sound scarier than “Adolf Hitler.” When the Ouija board’s pointer moves on its own, it’s almost enough to send you jumping over the back of your seat.

Exorcist Crucifix and Head spin

The film’s really hardcore scares are amazingly sustained by Friedkin. Once Father Karras has brought in an experienced exorcist (Max von Sydow), whole scenes have the same disturbing timbre, steadily milked for minutes at a time as the two priests cling to their rituals while the girl, tied to her bed, spews pure hate and quakes the room around them.

Because “The Exorcist” holds itself to a higher standard, there are several flaws that might not stand out otherwise, like the fact that Father Karras’s crisis of faith goes largely untapped as a plot point. From a modern perspective, the movie has ripened to the point of being a source of a few unintentional laughs too.

Father Karras emerges from his first meeting with Regan proclaiming that what he’s seen “doesn’t support a case for possession” even though the girl is speaking backwards in five voices, she’s covered in lesions, she’s become telekinetic and she’s barfing green slime. The movie also invites a snicker before Regan really flips out, when her clueless doctor prescribes her Ridilin.

And frankly, the unforgettable score (by Jack Nitzsche) plays a larger part in producing goosebumps than anything Friedkin or Blair contributes. (The scariest thing about this movie to me has always been that there was a stage mother out there who allowed her pubescent daughter to star in a phallically-obsessed movie, constantly screaming pornographic obscenities and violently deflowering herself with a cross.)

So this is one of the most unforgettable horror movies ever made.



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