The Exorcist (18)

Directed by William Friedkin
Starring Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller

Often named as one of the scariest films ever, and 25 years after its first cinema release, The Exorcist is re-released. Not shown on UK tv and banned on video, it has become quite notorious over here. However, the head spinning, projectile vomitting Linda Blair character has also been much parodies, notably by French ans Saunders.
The story is simple enough. Actress Ellen Byrstyn's daughter Regan(Blair) becomes possessed, and exhibits nasty symptoms of demoic possession. Young priest Father Karras(Miller), eventually calls in an expert exorcist Father Merrin(Von Sydow).
Today's horror films have much more elaborate special effects, both computer generated and in the make up and models line, but where The Exorcist wins is in its pure creepiness. This is more than just a shock fest, or a gory blood bath and the atmosphere of the film is what makes it stand out. Unlike today's horror film, there is no tongue in cheek humour or one liners, this is a seriously scary film. It certainly helped that when I went to see it, the pictures disppeared for about 3 or 4 minutes near the start, and we disconcerted audience listened to the screeches and scrapings, wondering what was going on!
The actual sight of Linda Blair as she became more disgustingly bloated, and discoloured was not the disturbing thing, but certain images of her were very memorable. The scene with the crucifix was truly disturbing and I do wonder how much of the filming involved Blair- a child at the time of course- and how much was filmed with doubles or dubbed later.
Performance wise, Von Sydow and Miller stand out. I don't remember seeing Jason Miller in anything else, but he makes a fine moral centre for this film. Max Von Sydox has such presence and integrity, he gives the film a reall credibility. Young Linda Blair has never lost the tag of "the girl from The Exorcist", and probably never will. Ellen Burstyn gets to look very anguished through out, and does it nicely enough.
Personally, I have always found the cinema by far the best place to see a film. A film like this loses impact on a small tv when you are sitting by your own fire I think. The big screen and the darkness add so much to the atmosphere of evil and the audiences feeling of uncertainty. I was also srtuck by how beautifully cinematic the early scenes with Max Von Sydow in, I think it was, South America looked. This is a finely crafted film, and a powerful one. 7/10

October 1998

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