a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, The Exorcist (1973), starring Ellen Burnstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair and Jason Miller.
Per IMDb: “When a preteen girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.”
In what is probably one of the scariest pieces of film, ever, very young Regan MacNeil (Blair) is an ordinary pre-teen daughter of a movie star, if that’s possible. She’s down to Earth but has a live-in nanny and lives in a gated home in Georgetown. Regan plays with a Ouija board in the basement, by herself, and talks with an entity she calls “Captain Howdy.” I’m pretty sure this is where Dee Snider got the name of the character he wrote about in Twisted Sister. Anywhat! After contacting the bad ol’ captain, Regan starts getting sick. She makes a lot of weird noises and has fevers and then goes cold.
Her mother, Chris (Burnstyn), has a party to celebrate an astronaut that’s about to go up in space when Regan shows up in her nightgown, unannounced, in a daze, and tell him that he’s going to “die up there,” and then urinates all over the rug and herself. Soon after, Regan falls deeper into the abyss and things start happening. Her bed shakes, the room goes cold, etc. Chris consults several doctors but they don’t find anything wrong. They run many tests on Regan and it’s quite uncomfortable to her (and apparently what’s inside her).
Another side plot is that of Father Damien Karras (Miller). His mother dies and he loses faith in the Lord. But, after Christ talks with him, something about Regan makes him take an interest. Meanwhile, more things are happening. While Chris is at a function, her friend and director, Burke Dennings, died after falling from a window while babysitting Regan. Father Karras believes Regan is possibly possessed by a demon. He wants to get permission from the church to perform an exorcism. They agree but they instead enlist the services of Father Lankester Merrin (von Sydow) to perform this task. Why? Because it seems the demon that is inside Regan is Pazuzu, a demon that Merrin had defeated before. Did it work? You’ll have to watch to find out.
There’s plenty of iconic horror imagery in this film, along with many quotes and many parodies made from it, as well. The makeup crew that made Linda Blair, a very pretty young girl, look that hideous and the things the special effects people were able to make appear to happen was spectacular. Some of the scenes make your skin crawl. Some make you gasp. This film, especially for 1973 was truly scary. Was it a monster film? No. Was it a supernatural horror film? Surely.
The things that Regan did while under the possession of Pazuzu were very provocative. Masturbating with a cross, levitation, head spinning 360 degrees, projectile vomit – and I am not talking about just throwing up; this was throwing out! Several feet worth of out. The things that Blair had to pretend to say were enough to make one blush. I saw it a long time ago and have re-watched it several times since. I remember I was very young when they did a reshowing in theaters and the trailer showing Max von Sydow’s silhouette in the streetlight was quite scary, too. I watched it not long ago with my son, 3B, who promptly slept through all of it. I was hoping for the special edition in which Regan does the reverse spider walk down the steps but it didn’t happen in this version, the theatrical release. I do wish Max von Sydow’s character would have been more prominent in the film, but what do you do?
Rotten Tomatoes rates this at 87% Fresh with an Audience Score to match it. IMDb has it at 8 stars out of 10. It was on the 400 nominations for the AFI‘s 100 Years… 100 Movies list (2007 version), but didn’t make the list cut. It’s on a dozen other lists like this, too. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Cinematography, Film Editor, Production Design, Writing Adapted Screenplay and Sound Mixing; winning the last two. It was the first horror film to ever be nominated for Best Picture.
This is available (at the time of this writing) on Netflix. I rate it a 4.25 stars out of 5. Have you seen it? Do you agree? What would you like to read/hear me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“What an excellent day for an exorcism.” – Demon (Pazuzu?)