Whether THE EXORCIST is the scariest film of all time is up for debate. What isn’t up for question, though, is the fact that THE EXORCIST is a very unsettling movie. I dare you to watch the movie alone on a dark night and not feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up whenever Pazuzu, the pea soup loving demon with a penchant for little kids, has a verbal sparring match with Father Damien Karras.
Directed by William Friedkin from a screenplay by William Peter Blatty based on his own novel, THE EXORCIST stars Ellen Burstyn as a woman whose daughter (Linda Blair) becomes possessed by a demon. Forced to confront the unknown for the sake of her daughter’s sanity, she turns to a pair of priests played by Max von Sydow and Jason Miller to help exorcise the demon from her young daughter.
A combination of a slow-burn, suspense-filled pace that focuses on tension above cheap scares, wonderful music by Jack Nitzsche and Mike Oldfield and some outstanding special effects that still hold up today help to make THE EXORCIST one of the classiest horror films ever released. The film is scary, to be sure, but it does not sacrifice a certain pedigree of golden age Hollywood to achieve its scares. This is the top shelf tequila of horror films.
The film’s classiness and self-assurance in itself is, I believe, in large part due to the fact that there’s just something inherently scary about demonic possession. You don’t have to aim so low when trying to freak out an audience with a film like THE EXORCIST because the concept brings enough gooseflesh on its own. Don’t believe me? Watch these Youtube videos of purported real exorcisms and tell me you didn’t just pee yourself a little:
We’ll be screening THE EXORCIST twice this October — giving you ample opportunity to see for yourself just how unsettling the film can manage to be more than 40 years after its release.
Note: The screening on October 29 will be hosted by the Houston Film Critic Society. The HFCS is a Houston-based group of print and online writers and broadcasters who review films. Full disclosure, I am a member myself. The HFCS will be using the screening as a fundraiser for their yearly activities and annual awards ceremony. HFCS member Regina Scruggs will be on hand during the screening to talk about the film and offer a little historical perspective about the film.