31 Days of Halloween! #1. The Exorcist

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.




#1. The Exorcist (1973)

Directed by: William Friedkin

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair

Plot: A movie actress taking up temporary residence in Washington D.C. has her troubles. The script for the movie she’s filming seems inadequate. Her ex, who is also the father of her adolescent daughter, Regan, neglects to call the girl on her birthday. And the attic has rats. Meanwhile, Father Karras, a priest and a psychiatrist, is losing his faith; and he’s dealing with a sick mother who needs medical care he hasn’t the money to provide. Another priest, the old and ailing Father Merrin, has just returned from Iraq with forebodings of evil. These three persons meet when the sweet and cheerful Regan turns foul-mouthed and violent. But her sickness is beyond the reach of a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. What Regan needs is an exorcist.

My Thoughts

H.P Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.The Exorcist taps into that primal fear unlike any other work of fiction. Our fear of the unknown is put on glorious display in William Friedkin’s 1973 horror film and once it was seen, things would never be the same. The Exorcist is based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, which in turn was based on a real life event that took place in Maryland in 1949 where a young boy was supposedly possessed by a demon and given an exorcism – and it seemed to have cured him. I won’t waste time going into the debate of whether or not demon possession is real or just a brain disorder, I’ll just say that this is a real phenomenon where the cause is, you guessed it, unknown. So why do we love to be frightened? Why do we flock the the theaters to see a 12 year old girl turn into a hideous demon? Is it because we need to be scared to remind ourselves of the goodness of our lives? To be able to experience something so horrendous from a distance, like a voyeur? It’s probably these reasons and more but the bottom line is – we just love a good scare. The Exorcist does an excellent job of that. I’ve heard it said by filmmakers that the more outlandish and ridiculous the subject matter the more seriously the director needs to approach it. Friedkin took this notion to heart and set out to make not just a horror movie but a movie that rings true and doesn’t take any shortcuts or cheats the viewer. It’s a movie that never backs down or turns away, even when what we are seeing is abominable and leaves us with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomach. The power of The Exorcist lies in the camera never flinching and thus exposing us to lurid and savage scenes. We are forced to bare witness to a battle between good and evil. To a battle of faith and unbelieving. Battles that we face in our own lives day to day, but never to the degree that’s displayed in The Exorcist. And I guess in the end that is why this movie has stood the test of time, and continues to scare generation after generation – because through fear we feel alive.


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