Tuesday, October 4, 2016

31 Days of Horror: THE EXORCIST (1973)

Welcome horror fans, to Day 4 of the 31 DAYS OF HORROR! We are back in our lead up to Halloween with an absolute horror classic and masterpiece...THE EXORCIST. Enjoy!

William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is a horror staple and genuine classic. The story of the film follows a mother and daughter living in Georgetown when the daughter gets possessed after playing with a Ouija board. Starring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, and Linda Blair, this film is one of very few horror films to break through and earn a Best Picture nomination from the Academy and is considered a staple of cinema. All of these praises are well deserved as this film is absolutely brilliant.

Amongst the many positives in this film, the most significant of them is the quality of the dramatic storytelling. When people think about this movie they remember a lot of the horrifying imagery and events, but this film is much more than that. Because of the way this film is written and the way the emotions of the characters are brought to the screen it is more engrossing than an average horror film and creates a real sense of the situation. Moreover, the subtlety of the descent into the horror of the situation and the slow breaking of the mother is extremely powerful and effective for the film as a whole.

None of the drama discussed above would be possible absent superb performances which were provided across the board. The main adults (Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, and Max von Sydow) are all very strong throughout. They bring layers to their performances in all distinct and different ways. Whether it is the sheer breaking of a mother’s spirit, fear from ghosts of the past, or passion and desire to help others in a genuine way, we see them all react to the circumstances at hand in different and understandable ways. The strongest performance in this film, and deserving of never-ending praise, is that of Linda Blair as Regan. She had the extremely difficult task of embodying a character before (and after) possession and throughout the possession process. She brings out this very sweet and lovely persona at the beginning of the film which is entirely unrecognizable in her character in the latter parts of the film. The physicality of the performance is also highly commendable. She starts very comfortable in her gait but her movements become so unnatural it is really unnerving to look at and is something only an actor of truly great skill could pull off.

The other elements that make this film brilliant are technical in nature. First, the sound design is absolutely astounding and creates a really terrifying atmosphere that really puts you on edge as you take in the film. Moreover, the cinematography and visual imagery are equally striking. Everything is captured and done just so where you almost feel like you shouldn’t be watching what you are and the disturbing nature of the situation reaches out from the screen into your real-world psyche.

This film has very few problems with it. The only real notable ones are that, for a while, this film takes some time to develop into the horrifying situation and then when it does it does so very suddenly. This is far from fatally damaging but it is just a touch jarring when you see the film. There is also one practical effect for vomit in the film that just looks silly. It’s not believable as a human excretion and thus didn’t make me feel particularly engaged with that situation. 

The Exorcist is a classic film by any measure and is one of the best horror films ever made. It essentially defines quality in the possession genre and pushed the boundaries in so many ways with its brilliant performances and overall technical achievements. If you haven’t seen this film, see it immediately. Horror fan or no, this is essential viewing for cinephiles everywhere (and who knows, it might make a horror fan out of you too)!

Ryan’s Score: 9.5/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We’re posting a new horror review every day all throughout October, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we’ll have you covering your eyes from next!

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