The Exorcist

The Exorcist ★★★★

Now every now and again when I'm reading up on films that I've either watched or revisited, there's something new that I learn from each and every one. Having only seen The Exorcist three times in my lifetime, once on a grainy old VHS which scarred me deeply, and twice in the last 11 years since I started my movie diary, it's still a fairly fresh film for me. Over the years I've seen documentaries on The Exorcist, seen interviews with Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, and Max von Sydow, and had to listen to Mark Kermode wax lyrically about his favourite film every time someone mentions it. Jason Miller however, who played Father Karras in the film was someone I knew absolutely nothing about, and couldn't remember seeing him in anything else either before or since The Exorcist? So who was Jason Miller?

To say this was an eye-opener would be an understatement. Son of Jackie Gleason? Father of Jason Patric? Well that was a surprise, but given the performance that Miller musters in Friedkin's film, should I really have been that shocked? His Father Karras is arguably the most complex character onscreen, so he's not masturbating with crucifixes or wrestling with putting his child in a mental institution, but given his Catholic guilt over the death of his mother and a possible test of his faith, he's a fascinating character. He's a tortured soul who's about to encounter something truly evil, and when called upon, he steps up to the mark with a display of sacrifice his mother would have been proud of.

The Exorcist has lost none of its potency over the years, it still had me unsettled, still had me mesmerised with how Friedkin managed to draw you into the battle for Regan's soul so masterfully. The treatment of Regan by the doctors is barbaric, yet another insight into how society deals with perceived mental issues, and even before she's spider-walking down the stairs and asking doctors to lick her bits, poor Regan is still misunderstood. If The Exorcist teaches us anything it's this, don't fuck with a Ouija Board or say hello to Captain Howdy, because both Father Karras and Father Merrin won't be there to rescue you this time around.

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