The Exorcist

The Exorcist ★★★½

100 Degrees of Actors: 6/100 (Max von Sydow)

Like several other reviewers here, I don't find that the horror within The Exorcist really resonates with me. Whether it's due to poor aging or just subjective preferences, the scenes aiming for shock and terror frequently made me laugh. There's definitely some tonal whiplash from this, as the movie is intending for viewers to take the demon completely seriously. Regardless, I think The Exorcist is a solid film that doesn't need to inspire terror to be worthwhile. And even without the fear of the supernatural, there's a type of horror that absolutely does land: the fear of knowing that something is wrong with your child and is making them suffer, while finding yourself unable to save them. It's this struggle that Ellen Burstyn portrays fantastically, becoming increasingly exhausted and desperate as nothing she tries has an effect.

All the horror aside, this is just a well-made movie. It's slower than most modern horror, but so carefully paced that it flows well, never dragging. There are some excellent shots, particularly the well-known image of the priest arriving in the fog, with expert lighting responsible for much of the imagery's quality. Even though I didn't exactly find the demon scary, the makeup and effects are quite impressive as well. Linda Blair's transformation from normal girl to scar-covered monster is impressive. And while I wish I could have seen more of Max von Sydow, his appearance nonetheless totally lived up to my expectations. He has such a commanding presence in this movie as the older, experienced priest, taking charge of scenes from the moment he appears.

When I really want a movie to make me feel anxious and uncomfortable I'll look elsewhere, but it illustrates the quality of The Exorcist that I could literally laugh at a horror movie's attempts to scare me, yet still think it's quite good overall.

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