I suppose I can’t continue to maintain a self-respecting horror blog without eventually covering The Exorcist. It’s not the quirkiest or most obscure horror movie, it’s not the one I can find the most intelligent thing to say about and it’s not the one that keeps me up at night, but it’s one I’ve watched dozens of times that I never get tired of. It’s the best quality film I’ve ever mentioned on this site, in my opinion. Not only does it fall under my favorite movement in film, New Hollywood or the American New Wave, it also was nominated for ten Oscars and won two.
I love the portrayal of Father Karras as an intellectual psychiatrist who questions his faith. I love his friend who plays show tunes at Chris MacNeil’s party. I love that the priests go to the party, period. I love the banter between the detective and the priest. The pacing is nearly perfect, because you have to wait until the last 30 minutes for the big showdown between God and the Devil. The rest is a top-quality 70s drama.
I love the dream Karras has about his mother and that it’s scarier than anything involving Reagan. It looks more like what I experience when I dream than anything I’ve ever seen in a film (except for the subliminal flashes of demons), especially because you know he’s trying to scream and can’t. I love that you see a doctor smoking in the hospital; I love all the body horror in the hospital. I’m fascinated by the fact that sixteen people associated with the film died around the time that it was made, because that makes people actually think it has a curse on it.
Best of all, as both a moderately religious person and a literature geek, I love that Karras is a Christ figure. When he asks the demon to come into him, and then we see him fight it as his face transforms to evil and back before he jumps out the window, that is the essence of this story. Not the vomit or the rotating head or the little girl saying all those dirty words. This is the best horror film I have ever seen because it validates the whole genre and makes it legitimate.
You could take out the pea soup, the crabwalk and the crucifix dildo. You could even leave the reality of the demon open for interpretation. Even without all those things, you would still have a gritty, compelling human drama. A man begins with a crisis of faith, wondering if he has wasted his whole life. That man ends up giving his life to save a little girl who will never even know what he has done for her. The Exorcist proves that we’re not just watching these movies for the sole purpose of seeing how the effects guys are gonna kill someone, because a film can scare the shit out of the whole world and still get nominated for ten Oscars.