The Exorcist

The Exorcist ★★★★★

Have you ever had mice or rats in your attic? If you have, you know both the feelings of annoyance and invasion that oozes from your home for a short while. After setting up various traps and checking for signs of entry, all you can really do is stay up at night and listen for them. The slight clicks, the tapping of toes, the creaks and the dust that rises as the result of a disturbed floorboard; It feels as if you don't have control of your own home.

If you've seen The Exorcist, I'm sure you'll remember the scenes discussing the rats in the MacNeil home, as well as the utterly terrifying moments when you hear them rattling around.

Except I've left out one minor detail.....

IT ISN'T FUCKING RATS.

The Exorcist, was and will continue to be, one of the most quietly discussed films of all time. Growing up, whenever the film was mentioned, it was always with a quiet hush or a quivering whisper. Especially in a religious household, The Exorcist is still frequently cited as an obscene and even sacrilegious piece of cinema. That couldn't be more wrong.

I distinctly remember riding my bike home from the video store one Saturday afternoon in September, happy as I've ever been because I managed to convince the video clerk to let me rent "THE SCARIEST MOVIE EVER MADE." Or so it said on the cover. I'm not saying that isn't accurate, it definitely is, but talk about expectations for an average viewer. As a 13 year old, I couldn't sleep for weeks. It fucking wrecked me. And yet, I watched it three times before I had to return it. William Friedkin's masterpiece had an unshakable effect on me, and it will continue to have that very same effect each time I rewatch it.

However, The Exorcist hasn't just stayed scary for me over the years, It has deepened and ripened in both its technical elements and its hair-raising core. It is arguably the greatest film ever made about faith, and the only film that comes close is The Last Temptation of Christ, another film ridiculed and criticized, except for much more prominent reasons. I just don't understand why so many lambasted the film for being Evil or endorsing Evil. Really? Did you even watch the film? The Exorcist, without spoiling anything (you should have seen it by now), is a very positive film in its own way, showcasing faith and its influence in the mysterious fashion that it exists in the world.

It really isn't a typical example of a horror film either, although it's an example that every horror film should strive towards. It's a mature, thoughtful, deliberately paced, and searing work of religious contemplation; one that is known more for its spewing vomit instead of its individualized characters and its complex symbolism. This mindset is a small minority however, and over the years, It has become clear that many have discovered the film's true reason of existence; to help sort through the mysteries of faith.

William Peter Blatty's screenplay, based on his novel, is completely absorbing. Every character is well-rounded, interesting, flawed, and beautifully defined. And with actors such as Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Lee J. Cob, Jason MIller, and Linda Blair; every role is brought to startling life and gorgeous humanity. William Friedkin's direction perfectly compliments their efforts, with the contrast between silence and chaos, light and dark, good and evil culminates in a film of supreme density in regards to its themes. His images are grainy, off-kilter, and alarmingly simple. It lets everything else to the talking, but because of that, the direction leaps off the screen in an unorthodox way that hasn't been seen before or since.

The aural/visual components are simply stupendous, with Owen Roizman's cinematography reaching into the darkness and pulling out images that will stay in your head for weeks. The aural elements are exotic, feverish, alive, and blood-curdling, and the sound deserves a high-quality surround system. The sounds float in the air, never leaving as they fade into the silence until its their turn to pounce again.

And of course, it needs to mentioned that The Exorcist is scary. Really scary. Like "HOLY FUCKING SHIT I'M NEVER GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS" scary. I like to mention this last because in spite of this, I feel that Friedkin's film should be celebrated, not hidden in the corner of the video store. It's horrifying to be sure, but within, there's a story as powerful and poignant as any. It'll resonant, It'll scare, and It'll make you think. Undoubtedly the greatest horror film ever made, and in my eyes, one of the 30 greatest accomplishments in cinematic history.

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