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10 reviews, 151 user ratings

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Exorcist, The
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by Mel Valentin

"As frightening and disturbing today as it was in 1973."
4 stars

William Friedkin's ("The French Connection," "Sorcerer," "To Live in Die in LA") 1973 adaptation of William Peter Blatty's bestseller (Blatty also wrote the screenplay), "The Exorcist," has become a classic both in and out of the horror genre. Before the 1970s, the horror and science fiction genres were was considered strictly B-movie material. Hollywood studios made few attempts to popularize the genre, unless a cross-over bestseller was involved (e.g., Roman Polanski’s 1968 adaptation of Ira Levin’s bestseller, “Rosemary’s Baby”). Mixing supernatural horror, pre-millennial angst, and gruesome, realistic makeup effects "The Exorcist" became a blockbuster in the truest sense of the term. Its box office success led to critically and commercial unsuccessful sequels and a prequel and several inferior imitators.

In Al-hadar, near Nineveh, Iraq, Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow), a Catholic priest and archeologist, greets the discovery of an ancient, pre-Christian temple with fear and dread. In Georgetown, near Washington, D.C., Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), the 13-year-old daughter of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), an actress working on a local film shoot, begins to act erratically. Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a priest with a Ph.D. in psychology, struggles with his faith in God, his mother’s failing health, and his inability, due to limited resources, to help her financially.

MacNeil concern turns to near-panic when Regan begins to suffer from epileptic fits. Doctors perform a battery of painful, ultimately inconclusive tests. A psychiatrist prescribes tranquilizers to control Regan's erratic behavior (she uses a different voice, curses profusely, and, in one scene, uses a crucifix sacrilegiously). A police detective, Lt. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb), becomes embroiled in the storyline when he investigates a suspicious death near MacNeil’s home.

MacNeil’s desperation leads her to Father Karras, whom she asks for spiritual help. The faith-challenged Karras gets assistance in the form of Father Merrin, who appears almost miraculously at Chris' doorstep to perform the exorcism. From there, it becomes a battle of wills between the (presumably) possessed Regan and the two priests, one frail and elderly, the other still faith-challenged.

Looking back, it's hard to imagine, with the exception of one or two scenes, viewers being shocked, repulsed, or terrified moviegoers. The Exorcist's makeup effects, parodied often over the last four decades, are almost risible by today’s standards (the 180-degree head turn is one classic example). That's not to say, however, that The Exorcist isn't a well-crafted, well-acted film. It is, thanks to high production values, naturalistic cinematography, or the performances, including Linda Blair as Regan (her demonic voice dubbed by veteran actress Mercedes McCambridge). Lee J. Cobb (Twelve Angry Men) also acquits himself well as the potentially clichéd world-weary detective investigating a nearby murder.

Presumably a holdover from the novel, Lt. Kinderman’s subplot serves minimal dramatic purpose, other than to remind the audience that, in the real world, the death of a secondary character would lead to an investigation (again happening offscreen, but, in that case, most likely due to Blatty and Friedkin's decision to play their cards close to the vest as well as the need to retain sympathy for Regan). In a two-plus hour film with multiple protagonists, superfluous characters and subplots should have been kept to a minimum.

More importantly, Friedkin mishandles Regan's descent into demonic possession (or psychosis). The first clue that something may be wrong comes with Regan complaining to her mother about her bed shaking. This minor problem, which the audience doesn't see, almost immediately turns into Regan being subjected to the battery of tests by the neurologists. It's an abrupt transition, and fails to provide sufficient evidence of Regan's escalating condition or for the doctor's preemptive decision to begin testing her.

Is Regan possessed by the Devil, as seems to be the case early on, or a lesser demon, intent on causing mischief and anguish, but nothing more? The Exorcist leaves this question unanswered. More could have been done, either in the prologue or in later scenes with Merrin revealing his connection to the demon to Father Karras (alas, he doesn't). Critics and academics can point to subtext in discussing The Exorcist (e.g., that Regan's possession is a metaphor for adolescence, with parents losing control of their children, or more darkly, of the fears and anxieties tied to female sexuality), but not why Regan was specifically chosen by this particular demon.

Despite its weaknesses, The Exorcist exhausted tales of demonic possession. William Peter Blatty's novel and script are as definitive as they come. The combination of characters, “slow-burn” storyline, realistic (for the time, anyway) makeup and special effects, and visual imagery (the iconic poster image of Father Merrin arriving to perform the exorcism, inspired by the 1954 painting "L'Empire des lumières" by René Magritte, is only one of many associated with The Exorcist), has yet to be equaled.

For the director’s cut (a.k.a. "The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen") released in 2000, Friedkin added 10 minutes of material cut for the 1973 release, including the much-talked about scene of Regan's "spider walk" down a flight of stairs, and included subliminal flashes of a demonic face/gargoyle. The additional footage slows down an already deliberately paced film to a crawl. The only plus to be found here is in the pristine transfer that makes "The Exorcist" look like a newly released film.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1142&reviewer=402
originally posted: 10/16/05 14:59:02
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User Comments

8/26/17 Justin Arkinson Still loving it nearly 20 years after first post I made! 5 stars
10/02/16 morris campbell dated but still scary as hell 5 stars
4/05/15 stanley welles fierce and powerful 5 stars
7/24/12 Dane Youssef Memorably horrifying. A landmark of it's time. But seems kind of silly by today's standards 5 stars
4/03/11 The Big D OK horror film, but nowhere near as scary as DArk Night of the Scarecrow! 3 stars
9/06/10 Malteras greatest horror movie of all time 5 stars
3/06/10 Marc Kelly Stand the test of time. 5 stars
11/20/09 art A SICK FILM! 1 stars
10/22/09 Arnold67 I could see as a viable capitalistic option. , 4 stars
10/17/09 Randall Krueger Afer 35 years this film has become a classic for horror lovers, and still sets the standard 4 stars
7/27/09 Luisa SCARIEST MOVIE ever!!!! 5 stars
1/19/09 Camilo Espinoza One of the best horror m ovies ever 5 stars
10/27/08 booberry when i watched this, i wasn't that scared. and i am only 12 years old!!!! 3 stars
10/20/08 Monster A Go-Go The original is still the BEST! Head-spinning, projectile vomit, what's not to love? 5 stars
10/12/08 Shaun Wallner Scary Story!! 4 stars
1/04/08 Justin Arkinson last time i rated this was nearly 8 years ago. madness hi. still cool, esp TVYNS 5 stars
5/02/07 john This movie caused mass hysteria. How many other movies have done that? 5 stars
4/27/07 Total Crap 2007 and still no horror movie can match this masterpiece. 5 stars
3/09/07 Sugarfoot Enjoyable and scary, but I always liked the third best. 4 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega The scariest movie of all time. The Exorcist rules!!! 5 stars
1/26/07 action movie fan it scared me like no other before and after great story and effects best film of 1973 5 stars
1/21/07 David A. Not scary for anyone who's seen Dark Night of the Scarecrow. 2 stars
12/17/06 JeromeBosch I shat my diaper the first time. And again when I read the book. 5 stars
11/05/06 Chris seen this movie when it first came out and scared the hell out of me. 5 stars
10/22/06 WTF GODLIKE!! Linda Blair is so fuckin Hot! 5 stars
10/21/06 Neil Brilliantly combines depth and thrill. As art and entertainment, may be the best horror pic 5 stars
9/24/06 David Pollastrini brilliant, frightening 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist Following American Werewolf in London, The Exorcist is the epitamy of frightening& awesome! 5 stars
5/06/06 dionwr Still scary after all these years--superior horror 4 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Haven't seen it in a LONG time, but it still scares the crap outta me. 5 stars
5/02/06 William Goss I think it's her time of the month. 4 stars
5/01/06 David Cornelius Pea soup + Ouija = bad complexion 5 stars
5/01/06 HBS-SH burt's broken jaw 5 stars
3/22/06 tabiya karim very very very scary 5 stars
3/17/06 richard citra one of the most intelligent horror movies of all time.Excellent!!! 5 stars
2/11/06 Maz Greatest horror film of all time!!Terrified when i watched it first 5 stars
12/14/05 deadfishrman when I first saw this movie I couldnt sleep for 2 weeks 5 stars
11/25/05 shell bell Honestly, this was one of the only movies that scared the crap out of me! 5 stars
10/25/05 Richard Brandt 30 years later, the emotional impact is much more apparent. "Is my daughter going to die?" 5 stars
10/25/05 Carolyn Rathburn Wicked, worth seeing again 4 stars
10/21/05 cypress I slept with the light on for a month after seeing this movie! 5 stars
10/20/05 PAG Very scary and creepy 5 stars
10/18/05 the untrained eye Truly one of THE greatest horror films of all time! 5 stars
9/12/05 Total Crap Not for the faint of heart. This director is Dangerous. Exorcist AKA "Scariest Movie Ever" 5 stars
8/29/05 ES The new add in stuff take away from the suspense, the original version is superior 4 stars
8/02/05 Sean Davis Scariest movie of all time. I love it...but I can't even own it...it freaks me out. 5 stars
4/12/05 Indrid Cold Sure it's good, but it really doesn't seem to live up to its reputation. 4 stars
3/25/05 Kristina Williams your mother sucks cocks in hell! 5 stars
3/23/05 erebus45 very well done 5 stars
3/12/05 ELI one of the best horror movies ever! why did they make all those crappy sequels??? 5 stars
3/02/05 Jeff Anderson The most nerve-racking film experience of my life & terrific! LINDA BLAIR IS BRILLIANT!!!!! 5 stars
2/16/05 Rachel Neely This is my absolute favorite movie of all time. 5 stars
1/11/05 Katie Heath the horror of all horrors - nothing has ever matched it 5 stars
10/01/04 jeff would the father really fuck her if the cameras werent around? 5 stars
9/25/04 Bucky Buckner Boone The very best of its kind. Often duplicated, never successfully 5 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G how the fuck can you think movie is scary, I would fuck her though 1 stars
7/24/04 MorallySound I've actually seen someone get possessed for 5 minutes! NO JOKE! This movie is real horror! 5 stars
7/16/04 J This is the so-called scariest movie, not scary but nice!!! 4 stars
7/15/04 alex great movie but somewhat over-rated 4 stars
7/10/04 Vince Not bad, but definitely over-rated 3 stars
6/01/04 TheExorcist Damn. The scariest movie ever. 5 stars
4/17/04 Father Merrin THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE. PERIOD. 5 stars
4/10/04 American Slasher Goddess Scary and supenseful religious horror film. 5 stars
1/31/04 britney eww this movie should be destroyed it f**k*n sucks 1 stars
1/24/04 Sarah I just saw it today WOW wat a good movie, freakie, but good. i loved the spider walk!!! 5 stars
1/15/04 ophylia777 holy crap!! So scary! 5 stars
1/07/04 A F I suppose if I were a cat lick it would be scarier, but it was alright. 4 stars
12/27/03 Monster W. Kung Pathetically overrated so-called 'classic', nothing special at all. 2 stars
11/27/03 John it's scary because the movie makes it real 5 stars
10/19/03 Samuel Justus A great horror movie! Not really as scary as everyone says it is tho... 5 stars
10/13/03 Ian I found this funny rather than scary but it was still good 4 stars
10/05/03 Rosalyn Guccio I still can't watch this movie alone, 20 yrs later it still scares the shit out of me. 4 stars
8/14/03 JOEY i love the exorcist true story and fuck scary 5 stars
8/03/03 Joman overated but still scary 4 stars
7/19/03 Daddy Plaid Linda Blair's dirty talk still turns me on!!!! Fock me!! Lick me!!! 5 stars
7/16/03 Emily I practically pissed myself the first time I saw it...havent eaten pea soup since.lol. 5 stars
7/12/03 Jack Sommersby A clunky script redeemed by fine acting and intuitive direction. More intersting than scary 4 stars
6/25/03 Alice This is Horror ! 5 stars
4/10/03 Ross Bernard not so much scary just so fucking disturbing! i love it! 5 stars
4/07/03 Mystique Scary 5 stars
1/06/03 me i still cant sleep. extremely good. 5 stars
1/04/03 Vince first time i saw it was the re-release in theaters. scariest movie of my life. 5 stars
10/25/02 Morally Sound Scared me as a kid, still scares me today! Awesome! 5 stars
10/23/02 Anastasia Beaverhausen Still scary after all these years 5 stars
10/21/02 Clob "Spellbinding! A blend of documentary film and Hollywood!" 5 stars
8/26/02 Ramblin Wreck THE Scariest Movie EVER MADE!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/07/02 I Can't Swim I saw this a week after it opened, it was an event movie w/o comparison, at the time 5 stars
7/19/02 ! Best horror movie ever! Just a fact 5 stars
6/06/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi phew! 5 stars
4/23/02 Monster W. Kung Overlong and overrated. Not bad, but not the classic some think it is. 3 stars
4/15/02 Mark Hortop A truly amazing film. Although extremely disturbing everyone should see it. 5 stars
3/02/02 Chowie Fucking brilliant 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Classic horror. The book is better, but the film gets points for trying. 4 stars
1/16/02 David A. Scary to those who have not survived Dark Night of Scarecrow. The subliminals didn't help. 4 stars
1/01/02 Cathy A very disturbing move, true to the novel. Makes you really think, unlike most horrors. 5 stars
12/03/01 palmreader scary for church people but not much for regular folk. Quackers be shitting brick loads. 4 stars
10/14/01 Andrew Carden Very Well Done Movie, but Some Of The Scenes Are So Stupid and Mindless. 3 stars
10/04/01 Evil Bitchwoman Quite overrated and it is so NOT freaky. I cant think y my mum h8's it! 3 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith Linda? Still spitting that "green" stuff???????? 5 stars
8/28/01 Gary Completely silly and unsubtle, but it's relentlessness is quite captivating. 3 stars
8/05/01 E-Funk One of the scariest, disturbing movies I have ever seen. An example of brilliant filmmaking 5 stars
7/27/01 Henry Ginsberg Without crossing my minde,the best horror ever made 5 stars
6/15/01 Bada Bing Crosby The sole reason I love good movies so much, along w/'Nashville' 5 stars
5/07/01 guyguy one of the best movies, also part 3 is really good too and has some links back to this film 5 stars
5/03/01 roby lafon scary as hell 5 stars
4/18/01 Tam Freaky and disturbing, but a tad overrated. It does linger in your mind a bit though. 4 stars
4/12/01 R.W. Welch Not the scariest of movies, but skillful as the devil. 4 stars
4/10/01 Mic Not very scary, but shot rather well 4 stars
4/09/01 ChErRyRiPe scary film. 5 stars
4/02/01 warrun By far the best scarry movie ever made 5 stars
3/30/01 Chris Gmiterek Just an excellent film. This movie has stood the test of time and still creeps me out! 5 stars
3/25/01 Jonathan A must on the big screen 5 stars
3/07/01 jordan first half is awesome. second half sucks. exorcist II: the heretic makes this look horrible 3 stars
3/03/01 Matt "...think happy thoughts.." 5 stars
3/02/01 Jacob Myers Pretty funny if you ask me 5 stars
2/16/01 Michael Nicholls If you have a crucifix dont watch this film... 4 stars
2/09/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Fucking Awesome. Period. 5 stars
1/31/01 Vivien Leung it's not wanting your FAKE scream... but something deeper... its the fear inside 5 stars
12/13/00 Tom Those who don't appretiate true horror shouldn't be allowed to watch this masterpiece! 5 stars
11/27/00 Cristopher Revilla I'ts not that scary, but it was pretty shocking too, especially at the end 5 stars
11/18/00 Rima Yahfoufi It was vey scary and kinda funny 5 stars
11/04/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble The greatest movie ever made. Shames Hollywood today. 5 stars
10/30/00 master.node Love! the rebuilt soundtrack. Those who don't like TE haven't bothered to think about it. 5 stars
10/23/00 Elvisfan The one and only - Reed Rothchild is Right! 5 stars
10/16/00 chouck One of the scenes in the doctor's office creeped me out, the rest was pretty boring 3 stars
10/15/00 OneShitMonday Loud, ugly and creepy. Over the top but draws you in and doesn't let go. 4 stars
9/30/00 Chuck I'm desensitized to this stuff. I watched passively, took it in, and was underwhelmed. 3 stars
9/27/00 grunter Pea-green puke, festering scars and demon entreaties to incest no longer scare in 2000 3 stars
9/25/00 joey obviously, anyone who doesn't like this doesnt have the sence to understand it 5 stars
9/23/00 Will See it in the big screen! See it in the big screen! 5 stars
8/13/00 Tony K. Is it true that the original in theatres had subliminal messages, making it scarier? 4 stars
1/19/00 Jedi15 Not really scary, but DEFINITELY unsettling, even after 20 or so years. The sequel is shit! 5 stars
1/13/00 k.tomkowski ver scar and unforgettable 5 stars
7/09/99 Justin Arkinson Cool 5 stars
7/03/99 J-Dogg Don't remember this movie, but I've always liked it. Need to rent it too. 4 stars
6/14/99 Dylan Scary in the same way that The Shining is scary. Eerie! 5 stars
6/03/99 Matthew Bartley What is all the fuss about?Boring,laughable.NOT SCARY!!! 1 stars
5/02/99 The Bomb 69 not a horror fan, but this movie makes up for it 5 stars
4/11/99 Alonzo (alc311@hotmail.com) this movie was awesome, anyone who says otherwise sucks 5 stars
4/07/99 Geoffrey T. Spaulding THE BEST FUCKING DEMONIC POSSESION MOVIE IN HISTORY!!!!!! 5 stars
3/18/99 Dave Chambers bloody good 5 stars
3/03/99 a Simply stated: The finest horror movie ever made. 5 stars
12/03/98 Mike F I guess I don't like movies like this. 2 stars
11/30/98 Mr.Pink YIKES! 5 stars
11/26/98 br Wow. One of the scariest ever made 5 stars
11/22/98 little jerry Good moments but not very scary.Not a patch on ROSEMARY'S BABY for getting under your skin. 4 stars
11/09/98 Johny Would you believe Friedkin also made JADE? 5 stars
10/26/98 Silent Rob From literary scripts, come literary visions. 'Dimi, why you do this to me?' 5 stars
10/15/98 {{{OZ}}} Don't take the planet's word for it. Take mine. This fuckin' rules. 5 stars
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  26-Dec-1973 (R)
  DVD: 05-Oct-2010

  16-Mar-1974 (18)

  22-Mar-2001 (R)

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