The Exorcist
Rating -

Horror (US); 1973; Rated R; 121 Minutes

Ellen Burstyn: Chris MacNeil
Max von Sydow: Father Merrin
Jason Miller: Father Karras
Lee J. Cobb: Lt. Kinderman
Jack MacGowran: Burke
Kitty Winn: Sharon
Linda Blair: Regan
Vasiliki Maliaros: Mother Karras
Wallace Rooney: Bishop
Titos Vandis: Karras' Uncle
Rev. William O'Malley: Father Dyer
Mercedes McCambridge: Voice of the Demon

Produced by William Peter Blatty; Directed by William Friedkin; Screenwritten by Blatty from his novel, "The Exorcist"

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Time takes its toll on movies. As the years pass by, the stories, visuals, characters and concepts of them become crippled, disoriented, and utterly forgotten, as the future presses on with more creativity and more freedom of typical cinematic aspects."
- Unknown

Sure, cinema was once at the peak of severe limitations, and today, most are subverted, but it's not a fact that past movies fade in our minds as well. Some of the greatest pictures ever made are from the past, and as cinema pushes on into the future with technology that gives movie-makers more conceptual freedom, the old movies remain in our minds. Sometimes they are outdone by the new forms of today's technical and conceptual possibilities, but sometimes, they aren't.

In 1973, "The Exorcist" was THE movie. It went beyond the limits of cinema visually and artistically, and created visions of such invincible terror and mystique that it set the standard of horror, visualization and characterization for years to come in cinema. It was the pinnacle breakthrough for film makers--an overwhelmingly disturbing mental picture of the most raw and destructive forces on our planet and in the cinema.

At the time of its release, though, movies had their standards, and "The Exorcist" made some severe impact with its unsettling cinematic aspects (like profanity, church desecration, etc.). These things not only modified the standards for the future, but upset audiences worldwide. The movie is STILL banned in the United Kingdom, and those who saw it all those years ago are likely not to forget it.

But 25 years later, it has slipped into the past. Today, new forces are in control of cinema, and new minds are expanding on the limitations from long ago. Most new movie-goers disown "The Exorcist" as if it never existed, calling it "yesterday's hype, today's boredom," as a friend of mine likes to say.

It's hard to see why, though. When I first saw it nearly three years ago, the creativity of visuals, sets, and story directions seemed completely fresh, as if no such material ever existed in modern movie making. It hit me just awhile ago that today, movies are not the strongest point of the cinema timeline. History embarks back to the 1920s, when special effects never existed, and the way to hold a movie-goers attention was its story and characters. Only in the last ten to fifteen years has the special effects market abandoned its roots of story and characterization to stand on its own in its own films. I guess that is what people pay attention to today, and story and characters are considered not that important anymore.

But "The Exorcist" had all the right intentions. Its story, characters, conception, and vision were all uniquely concepted, and in 1973, it scared the hell out of everyone. There were reports of suicide, child miscarriages, sacrilege, and religious persecution which all developed from the audiences who saw the movie. In places over on the eastern United States, the movie was rated "X," and in many other places, no one under 18 years of age was allowed into it. Religious groups slammed it for being "religiously degrading," and some even fought to have it removed from theaters.

Its popularity existed for years to come. Nearly eight years after it was made, headlines in tabloids read "I saw 'The Exorcist' and gave up God," or "I saw 'The Exorcist' and shot myself." The audience reaction was very bizarre, and most of the popularity of it was probably owed to the people's response rather than to the film itself.

Earning 165 million dollars and a host of rave reviews, "The Exorcist" became the most successful horror film ever made (not to mention one of the only horror films to be released on Christmas day). Now, 25 years later, it is being renewed, updated, and re-released on video, which will (reportedly) include the original trailers, promos, and new scenes which were supposedly deleted at the last minute in 1973.

One scene which has been revealed to be in the video is "the spider sequence," a scene that demonstrates the free-flowing creativity of special effects and the outrageous potential for demonic spirits. The scene contains Linda Blair (or Regan) in positions like an arachnid, scaling walls, walking completely overturned, etc. The scene is a creepy, realistic one that makes "The Exorcist" a better movie than it once was, and if rumors are true, more disturbing scenes like this one will also be entered onto the video.

As for the movie itself, it's just as good as it was all that time ago. I wasn't there when it had its first theatrical run, but I doubt my opinion would change if I saw it back then instead of today.

Movies, like people, are only as old as they feel. "The Exorcist" is likely just as disturbing today as it was 25 years ago, and therefore, it's not as old as it seems.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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