Friends, it has been almost 46 years and some change that The Exorcist was originally released on an unsuspecting public – with many reports over the years of some theater goers being so upset that paramedics were called in. While some of this might be the stuff of urban legend the truth of the matter is that 1973’s The Exorcist is still a very uncomfortable movie – it’s not a film you are going to watch while attempting to relax after a hard day at work… unless maybe you are Beetlejuice.
I first saw William Friedkin’s excellent adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 book of the same name when I was around seven years old – probably too young but since I was raised on horror films, my Father assumed I would be okay. And in all honesty I was indeed fine – although the iconic head turning scene did give me a case of the heebie-jeebies. I believe that I hadn’t matured enough to understand half of what I was seeing at that time… it’s when I saw it again as a teenager that I found myself being incredibly creeped out. If you’ve seen the film for yourself you can probably call up a handful of scenes involving young Regan’s (Linda Blair) nightmarish experience that might have raised the hairs on the back of your neck. It was as a teenager that I also first realized just how amazing the performance were that Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, and of course the legendary Max Von Sydow delivered in The Exorcist – as well as how great the make-up effects were by Dick Smith. The artist managing to make Sydow in the 1973 film look almost exactly as he would a mere 46 years later in real life!
It was back in 2000 that I last saw The Exorcist – thanks to a re-release to theaters at the same time actually as Winona Ryder and Ben Chaplin’s Lost Souls. In fact I saw both films back to back – I felt that the 1973 film was the better movie by far. Which brings us to why I watched The Exorcist last evening after having closed down the arcade for the night – the reason is it was a request from one of the Arkadians who had never seen the picture. It had been 20 years since I last saw the film and it still held up really well – while I had not forgotten the scarier moments of the movie, I will admit I hadn’t noticed before just how masterfully William Friedkin shot the film. Watching it with my fellow employees and friends of the arcade I realized just how well paced the movie is – with Friedkin just ratcheting up the tension as The Exorcist progresses – until reaching it’s climatic finish.
The Exorcist showing last evening was the fourth time I had watched the film, as I am extremely unnerved by the movie. I am sure that it will be another 20 years before I find the courage to once again sit in a darkened room and view the film – it is just one of those movies that really gets to me. What about you though – I’d love to hear your experiences with the film in the comments section!