The Exorcist DVD has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of months now. The eerie glow coming out of the bedroom onto the exorcist himself on the cover brings a sense of unease and the box calling it ‘the scariest movie of all time’ doesn’t help matters. But on one quiet evening I knew it was time. The disc sprang out and jumped into the DVD player, ready to haunt me with possessed children and pea soup sick. I wasn’t ready but I was running out of films to watch on my small dusty shelf.
The Exorcist creeped me right out, I won’t lie about that. It starts in Iraq, with Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) finding a demonic statue and there is already tension bouncing around. It isn’t long before the scene switches to Georgetown and we witness a young girl, Regan (Linda Blair), playing around with a Ouija board. This causes her to be possessed by a demon and her mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), doesn’t know what to do. Regan starts to swear a great deal, as you’d expect when a kid starts to become a teen, but it doesn’t explain the rocking beds and spider walking. With the doctors struggling to find an answer for Regan’s problems, Chris turns to a priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller), in hope of him giving Regan an exorcism. He doesn’t seem to have much faith these days though, so it will take some convincing to go about doing the thing. Or just seeing it for himself. You start to believe in anything when you see a girl magically open drawers and speak backwards in a gruff voice.
The Exorcist is a scary film not when the possessed Regan is puking up pea soup sick or swearing like a teenager, those parts are quite funny, but when you see the more subtle moments such as the demons face popping on-screen for a brief second to grimace or witnessing Regan’s shadow in the window when she should be restrained in bed. Those moments are incredibly freaky and make for an unsettling film, one which doesn’t rely on jump scares or gore. There is some of that especially with sudden ringing telephones, but generally this creeps you out because of those little moments which bring the dread. It also helps that the characters are all likeable people so you actually want them all to get through this in one piece. Seeing Regan slowly deteriorate over the course of the film is upsetting and rather uncomfortable to watch. When you see stereotypical jerks running around in most horror films you just want them murdered. Preferably slowly.
The Exorcist is possibly the best horror film I’ve ever seen thanks to the great cast, story and scares used and it brings force a great thesis. To believe in God you must also believe in the devil. I may have had to sleep with the light on while hugging my favourite teddy, but I welcome The Exorcist with open arms. As long as the demon doesn’t possess me. That would really grind my gears.