Production Budget: $12,000,000
Domestic Total Gross: $193,000,000
Domestic Lifetime Gross: $232,906,145 (including re-release)
Foreign Total Gross: $208,400,000
Total Box Office Gross: $441,306,145
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: William Peter Blatty
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 26, 1973
Runtime: 2 hrs. 2 min.
MPAA Rating: R
America, I’m not going to dwell all that much on the plot of this movie. Chances are, if you are reading this, you have seen, or definitely heard the plot of The Exorcist.
I for one have seen many an exorcist movie, because I find them both disturbing and terrifying, and I will admit that I find this the grand daddy of them all, and none of the new wave really come all that close. The story starts with a few things. Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), divorced actress, is in Washington DC to do a movie. Regan (Linda Blair), is her daughter. Over time, Regan’s personality starts to change, tests are run, nothing is found, so they naturally go to the next step, and call the Catholic Church to see if she needs an exorcist.
Now, concurrently, Father Karras (Jason Miller) is questioning his faith, because his mother has been dying a slow death. He, of course, is then called in to assist Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), who is the Priest
at the church who has performed Exorcist’s in the past. So we have an actress mom, a possessed child, and two priests with one and a half commitment, and we find out, a demon inside of her.
Mercedes McCambridge is the voice of the demon, and quite convincingly. To get her voice right, she drank raw eggs, chain smoked cigarettes, and drank whiskey. The whiskey broke her sobriety, so she had a priest on hand to consul her while she went thru the process.
I also heard that she started smoking again, after years of quitting. This has always impressed me, her sacrifice to nail such an important part of the movie. After this, kids crabwalk, demons curse, Priest’s die, and puke projectiles, all in the name of one of the creepiest movies ever. I’m going to leave it like that. I don’t want to give away any of the plot or story, but come on, it can only go in one direction.
There are a few things that stick out about this movie though. Firstly, the director caught the time period perfectly. Granted, it was made in 1973, so capturing the 70’s was pretty easy, but when you watch this, you realize how much times have changed in just 40+ years. The style, the haircuts, it captures the modern 70’s so perfectly, you can almost smell it.
It also made me feel it was a simpler time. Now, Regan would be sent to a hospital mental ward, they would put her on Xanax or something, and nobody would think twice about it.
This was the early seventies though. People had a lot more faith in the churches. People had a lot less understanding about mental illnesses. A Priest then wasn’t just a guy who gave services, touched little boys, and absolved sins. The often counseled individuals/couples, were substance abuse counselors, gave life advice, touched little boys, and were far more visible in the community.
As a card carrying atheist raised Catholic, this movie terrified me when I was younger (born in 68), and has continually terrified me throughout the years. The mood that Friedkin set is just eerie, where slow build up, very few jump scares, and the subject give you a sense of unease.
I always say that some movies you get immediately, and some movies you have to digest, and though I have seen this movie double digit times, every time I think about it for days. In fact, even when I decided to write this, I started re-digesting it. It helps I just watched it a month and a half ago.
I’m from the school of thought that most exorcisms are of a mental issue. Some of that is fed through what they were taught as a child. As an ex Catholic, that religion is based greatly on guilt, some not so nice images, and a stew of stimuli that, when you are having a mental breakdown, can easily fill your thoughts with these images, as well as form your own demons from what you have learned. I admit, dear reader, that I have not done much research, but it seems every time that I do read about an exorcism, it is performed on a believer, and usually someone that was raised in a pretty strict household religion wise.
I feel that the acting is excellent. Whoever cast this did a very nice job. It’s a horror movie, but it often plays out as something different, until you see Regan. I credit that to the actors, as well as the director. A few actors chirped over Friedkin’s direction, but it was the first horror film nominated for a best movie Oscar. Unfortunately for them, The Godfather (god damn it Casey, watch it) also came out that year, so wrong place, wrong time.
So if you like a good horror film, not a huge fan of jump scares, and want to keep the lights on in the house for a week, I strongly suggest watching this movie, or rewatching this movie, or sending Casey mean tweets telling him to watch the Godfather…then this movie.