Deckard🥃’s review published on Letterboxd:
The October Halloween Film Fest gets an exorcism with William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist directed by William Friedkin.
The Exorcist a film that's been deemed "The scariest film of all time", deals with a young girl coming under possession of a demon. When her mother is told that an exorcism must be done, a young priest, Father Karras, who's questioning his own faith after the death of his mother. Karras, who is then joined by Father Merrin, work together to perform the exorcism and to defeat the demon.
I remember seeing this back when I was a child and being freaked out by it, but all these years later I vaguely remember it. I had to of watched it secretly when I was 8 or 9 years old, but watching it for what feels like the first time at 20, the film isn't really all that scary at all. The positives: The acting, probably the biggest one here, every actor in this film brings their A game and really makes these characters seem believable. There's no half-assing with them, especially Ellen Burstyn. The atmosphere, from the beginning scene, you get this feeling of an eventful impending doom that will happen. No matter what time or place, you know and feel something bad will happen. It works even greater with the moody atmosphere set and the rising tension each scene gives off. The effects, for being 40 years old, the effects impress the hell out of me. Practical, and old school it feels and looks real.
I don't really think the film is scary to be honest. I don't blame that on the writing, or the direction per se, but It just seems that with the atmosphere and the tension, the intended scares don't really hit home base and/or take off the way they are intended. Maybe you can blame that on the direction, depending on which side you are on that is. Maybe it's the "real" acting and reactions that's meant to shock you with what's in front of me, but it just felt different.
I'm not saying that I didn't like the exorcism scene, which is one of the greatest scenes in the film and in cinema. It's well shot, brilliantly acted, and beautifully executed. It feels real and no matter what happens or what is said, you just cannot look away. However, I feel that the ending to the exorcism was just sudden and that there wasn't real closure for me. Having the demon, Pazuzu, just transfer over to Karras, seemed good, I think there needed to be much more buildup to that. Surely you argue that there was plenty, as the demon taunted him during the initial exorcism, and Karras still somewhat self doubting himself. It still feels too sudden and happens quickly.
I'm not saying that isn't a great film, it is, with the technical aspects and the acting and the atmosphere, but I don't think it's that scary (I'd be lying my ass off if I said I didn't get freaked out by the face of Pazuzu, because I did get freaked out). It's an extremely charismatic film for sure, and looks good for 40 years old.