Friday, October 31, 2014

The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist (USA, 1973) - Color, Director(s): William Friedkin
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 122 min.

Z-rating: 5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

Often called the "scariest movie of all time," The Exorcist is based on the book that's based on the real-life exorcism of a 14-year-old boy. Roland Doe, a pseudonym given to protect the child, was allegedly possessed by the devil and had as many as nine Jesuit priests involved in his exorcism. As an only child, he was particularly close to his Aunt who was a spiritualist and introduced him to the Ouija Board. After she passed away, they began experiencing strange disturbances such as furniture moving and objects levitating across the room. Some believe the child may have attempted to contact his aunt using the Ouija Board. When the child began acting strangely, he was examined by medical and psychiatric professionals who found nothing wrong with the boy. Turning to the church, they got approval and the boy received a number of exorcisms. During one of the failed exorcisms, the boy's hands slipped free of his restraints and used a bed spring to slash the priest's arm. The details of the exorcism vary from one account to the next, some saying that the words "evil" and "hell" appeared on his body. Others say the word "hello" appeared on his chest and the face of the devil appeared on his leg. Scratches, seemingly made by claws, were also said to appear on his body.

This almost never leads to anything good...

The story made it into the papers where it inspired William Peter Blatty to write a novel based on the exorcism, he also wrote the screenplay for this film adaptation. In it, a 12-year-old girl named Regan becomes possessed by the devil after playing with a Ouija Board. Her mother, who is an actress, takes her to doctors and psychiatrists but they are unable find anything wrong with her. At the same time, a priest named Damien Karras is shaken by the loss of his mother and his faith begins to waver. Father Karras is the one who collects evidence of Regan's possession and presents it to the church. The bishop green lights the exorcism and brings in Father Merrin, who has experience with exorcisms. As it turns out, Father Merrin has previously "defeated" Pazuzu, the demon possessing Regan.

Up until the exorcism, we're just watching this innocent little girl plan for her birthday party. The first half takes its time slowly setting up for the second half, things get completely out of control when the exorcism begins. Some things were obviously exaggerated for the movie, for example, I doubt Roland Doe's head turned completely around. In real life, some people suspect that Doe may have either suffered from a mental illness or that he might've been faking the entire possession. In the end, they were able to "successfully" exorcise the child, who supposedly went on to live a normal life. There have been documentaries that explore the story of Roland Doe, In the Grip of Evil is supposed to be a good one.

Nudity: None. Although Regan spouts some really vulgar things while she's possessed like "Let Jesus fuck you!" while repeatedly jamming a crucifix into her crotch. Then she screams "Lick me!" while pushing her mother's face into her bloody crotch. This is one of the most disturbing things in any horror movie ever.

Gore: There isn't much blood or guts but the special effects are really disturbing. Regan's make up is horrific and her head spins around on her body. She vomits on the priests performing the exorcism, which is famously known to be pea soup. The famous spider-walk scene, performed by a contortionist that was suspended by wires, was originally cut from the theatrical release because the wires were visible. In the later home video releases, the wires were digitally removed and the scene was added back into the movie.

Awesome: When I first heard the reputation this movie had for being the "scariest movie ever" I just had to see it for myself. I rented this and watched it with my mom but was disappointed when it didn't scare me so hard that I pooped a duke. I've definitely grown to appreciate this movie since, especially after having seen more films in the genre. Every exorcism film has pretty much tried to copy this movie with limited success. This is still the granddaddy of all exorcism movies, with its chilling atmosphere and haunting special effects. There's no denying the massive impact this film had, everything from Scary Movie 2 to Futurama has paid homage to this film. I know full-grown adults that still refuse to watch it to this day because of how much it traumatized them as a child. The Exorcist (hell)spawned two sequels, one of which was written and directed by William Peter Blatty himself, and two prequels. None of which would even come close to capturing the creepy and truly terrifying imagery of the original. Don't let this movie's reputation build your expectations up too high to where you'll be disappointed though. Just let your guard down and watch this with an open mind. This film will undoubtedly have a stronger effect on those with a religious background but if you believe there's even a slight possibility the devil exists, this movie will chill you to the bone!