It is time once again to induct a film into our Horror Hall Of Fame for the month of June. Although this film needs no introduction, I feel one is necessary. Back in 1973, this film was awarded 4 stars by Roger Ebert. A truly impressive feat for a horror film. In his original review he called this film a “raw and painful experience”. Which is actually a pretty spot on description. This movie makes a raw and painful experience feel all too real and right in your face. It has been dubbed: iconic, controversial, profane, sacrilegious – you name it. We’re of course talking about William Friedkin’s classic The Exorcist.
An actress Chris, played by Ellen Burstyn moves to Washington D.C. to shoot a film. She brings along her 12 year old daughter Regan, portrayed expertly by a young Linda Blair. As the weeks go by, Chris notices changes of behavior in Regan. Anger, hostility. Soon physical changes begin to manifest. Altering her appearance horrifically. Despondent, Chris has multiple tests performed, but all to no avail. Left with nowhere to look she believes her daughter to be possessed by an evil entity. So she enlists the help of a Jesuit priest named Father Karras, played by Jason Miller. The third act also brings us an amazing performance by Max von Sydow, who plays the Exorcist himself, Father Merrin. From here though, most horror enthusiasts know where the plot is going. So I shall spare the horrific details.
Being raised a Catholic, this movie was scary as hell to me when I saw it at 12 years old or so. But it was also very intriguing. Because it showed another side to a horror film. It showed true evil. The devil. To anyone with a religious background, the devil is a truly scary thought. Which I believe is why this film was so popular at its time and place, while also being extremely relevant still, to this day.
Released on December 26th 1973, 24 selected cities put this film up on their screens. There was great anticipation for this film, as it was adapted from William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, which had been on national best seller lists for months. So ticket lines rounded street corners. Sold out shows in every city. Still, no one really knew what they were in for. Even those who had read the book prior, were shocked. People were in tears. People were shaking. Some felt frightened. Some probably felt like they were going straight to hell for even watching it. It was that initial buzz that turned The Exorcist into a smashing success going on to make over $440 million worldwide. Solidifying its induction in The Horror Syndicate’s Horror Hall of Fame!
Here you can see ACTUAL Audience Reactions from 1973:
I rated this as high as I did because of it’s total impact not just over the Horror film genre, but its impact on ALL cinema. Definitely in my Top 5 all-time list.
As always, thanks for reading and STAY SCARED!
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Oh, one last thing! Here is the trailer if some have never seen it!