The Exorcist

The Exorcist ★★★★½

Film #10 of Florin's Recommendations

”What an excellent day for an exorcism.”

Fear, distress, repulsion and shock all come together in William Friedkin’s timeless masterpiece, The Exorcist is a mesmerizing and spellbinding piece of cinema which mixes suspense, thrill and tension so strikingly that blinking or even taking a breath becomes an impossible task for almost two hours. It is the ultimate cinematic experience and a film that makes every director jealous, what director William Friedkin achieves here is something that every director wishes to achieve one day: finding the perfect balance between form and content and making an electrifying film that can make the viewers crazy even after 40 years.

What separates The Exorcist from countless number of horror films that come to cinemas every year is that besides being incredibly frightening and wonderfully well made it also addresses one of the most hotly debated and still unsolved arguments in the history: Science vs. Religion, the eternal conflict between those who believe in the impact of unknown factors on our lives and those who believe that there is a logical explanation for everything that happens. In a stirring scene Father Karras is saying that he doesn’t know anyone who knows how to do an exorcism, things like exorcism and possession doesn’t mean anything since psychiatry have invented terms like schizophrenia and paranoia. In the first half all doctors naively try to explain Regan’s odd behavior by attaching diagnoses like ADHD to her, they stubbornly try to find a reason for what is happening to the poor girl…but there comes a moment that scientists realize there are things that even their prestigious theories can’t explain.

There are numerous occasions in the film where Friedkin uses images to induce the ominous sense of fear and helplessness, one of them which works perfectly and prepares the viewer for what is going to happen in the rest of the film is the masterly made opening segment which takes place in Northern Iraq. Father Merrin’s encounter with devilish objects and the way Max von Sydow portrays the astonishment and numbness that he shows in his eyes gives us a hint about the dread and horror that Friedkin is going to show us. One scene that was shocking and really distressing was the scene where Father Merrin sees the statue of that demon for the first time, that happens in the middle of desert and with the sun setting in the background and two dogs fighting it was, for me the most ominous and threatening moment of the film. The final 30 minutes and the whole exorcism thing was thrilling and unnerving, the score and the gloomy cinematography all help make that scene menacing and shivering.

The Exorcist is the pride of horror genre, almost everything in the film is faultless, from the magical performances of Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow and Jason Miller to the dim and shadowy cinematography to the stressful score to the smart screenplay of William Peter Blatty, like any other successful artistic work it is the result of its creators’ accurate and correct understanding of the time and society that they’re living in. The Exorcist is another brilliant film from the Golden Age of cinema, the terrific 70s and the result of William Friedkin’s unrivaled creativity, perhaps the greatest horror of all times.

Dragonknight liked these reviews