Writer (book)/Director: William Friedkin
Regan- Linda Blair
Chris- Ellen Burstyn
the old priest- Max Von Sydow
the young priest- Jason Miller
Notable Awards and Nominations:
OSCAR- Best Adapted Screenplay
OSCAR- Best Sound Mixing
nomination- OSCAR- Best Picture
nomination- OSCAR- Best Actress- Ellen Burstyn
nomination- OSCAR- Best supporting actress- Linda Blair
nomination- OSCAR- Best Director- William Friedkin
nomination- OSCAR- Best supporting actor- Jason Miller
nomination- OSCAR- Best Cinematography
nomination- OSCAR- Best Film Editing
nomination- OSCAR- Best Production Design
Golden Globe- Best Picture- Dram
Golden Globe- Best Director- William Friedkin
Golden Globe- Best Supporting Actress- Linda Blair
Golden Globe- Best Screenplay- William Peter Blatty
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actress- Ellen Eurstyn
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Supporting Actor- Max von Sydow
nomination- Golden Globe- New Star of the Year- Linda Blair
Naturally, there will be spoilers...
Caution: There is some subtle language ahead... and those who are devoutly religious or easily offended, I'd advise to skip this entry entirely...
I knew at one point, I was going to have to talk about this movie... for the same reason why I knew I had to see it...
so I would never have to do so again.
When I was a teenager, I remember my dad bringing up this movie a bunch of times. Saying it was about a 13-year old girl who loves horses... something that sounds completely harmless until you go beyond that first sentence, obviously.
The title of this blog is "Confessions of a Movie-Goer" so it's only fair to include some movie-going experiences.
My dad and his brother were among the thousands of people that stood in long-winding lines around the blocks of New York. Where they were selling holy water and crucifixes. Where people passed out in the aisles and ran to the restrooms and all kinds of hysteria ensued.
Honestly, I don't get the whole phenomenon of people who flock to theaters for horror movies because they LOVE TO BE SCARED.
A friend of mine, who falls into that category himself, loves the Nightmare on Elm Street and Leprechaun franchises... said that this movie wasn't scary, that the special effects were cheesy and laughable at times.
But going back to 1973, 42 years ago... this was hella scary.
I mean, a movie that makes people pass out and/or throw up... that's kind of a big deal.
Now back to me...
I was probably in the age range of 12-15.
It was probably during the summer because I didn't have school the next day. Which was probably a good thing.
I said after a couple years of that one tagline that I wanted to see the movie so he would stop trying to talk me into it. I knew the one time would be it.
We have the DVD, the 30th anniversary edition, I believe. They were showing scenes and talking about the phenomenon- I was instructed to close my eyes during those first several minutes that played before the actual movie began.
Then all hell literally broke loose...
In a nutshell, the story is about a young girl living in the D.C. area who gets possessed by a demon and her single mom is left with no choice but to call for a couple priests to perform an exorcism on her.
The first 10-15 minutes of the movie are relatively harmless. They set up our main characters. Then these little incidents with Regan start to occur, getting progressively disturbing and violent.
I remember her coming downstairs during a dinner party and peeing on the carpet. [They spoofed this in the beginning of "Scary Movie 2" which I didn't appreciate until it went into full-on spoof mode].
I remember her screaming and her mom coming in to find her bed shaking uncontrollably.
Then she gets completely possessed and all kinds of scary shit goes down.
Not just her head spinning almost 180 degrees around on a number of occasions or the projectile pea soup.
I remember the one scene I saw briefly years before seeing the entire movie happened where the words "Help Me" appear in her stomach skin. She's in a room hooked up to all these IV's and machines, but is slowly disintegrating- apparently demon possession trumps basic biology. You can see everyone's breath, it's so cold in there.
The actual exorcism, I remember in flashes. "The power of Christ compels you" with the holy water and Regan floating several feet above the bed.
But apparently saying those six words over and over wasn't enough to free her from the demon. The stress of the whole ordeal gave the old priest a heart attack (not that it helped that his dead mother was part of the demon's tirade of swear-laden rants), leaving only the young priest to complete the task at hand.
I did not faint or throw up during the movie or in the aftermath.
But I CRIED during the final confrontation. The young priest demands that the demon take him instead. The demon takes him up on his offer and the young priest bravely dives out the 2nd story window to his death. Regan's crouched in a corner, crying. Her mom looks down at the young priest's body below.
The last thing I remember is Regan and her mom going out and Regan kissing the new priest who's there to investigate the young priest's murder.
And the "Tubular Bells" are playing in the background.. my dad still has that as his iPhone ringtone and I still cover my ears and demand he change it... it also gets played on the classic 60/70/80's radio station during Halloween.
Why I cried during that scene of the movie, I can't be sure. It could have been relief that it was all over. It could have been because the young priest was cute and his death was a tragedy. Or it was an emotional release in general... perhaps with spiritual undertones.
Ironically, we were going through the channels afterwards at 10-11pm... we came across the 2nd Austin Powers movie where Dr. Evil says "The Power of Christ compels you" to his misbehaving electronic swiveling chair... that didn't help matters.
Years later, I'd get through a couple "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie with no problem... but that was the only night of my life when I DID NOT SLEEP.
"Nightmare on Elm Street" is at least self-explanatory... Freddie Krueger is a horror figure that attacks you in dreams, and therefore make you terrified to fall asleep.
Not sleeping the entire night after seeing The Exorcist... I can't explain... except that I was terrified of the kinds of nightmares it'd put in my head.
:knock on wood: It wasn't because I was afraid of possession. That's always kinda in the back of my head somewhere, but it's not one of the first deftly-afraid-of fears that come to mind for me.
I came across a random video today of vintage footage- people standing in line to see it, the "Tubular Bells" playing in the background where people gave their reactions...
Someone at work relied details about those notorious sold-out days where people waited in line to literally get scared shitless... and added that the most terrifying part was that it was based on a true story.
And that is true. Except it's a slightly different location (Maryland, not D.C.) and the kid was a boy, not a girl.
Several other possession films have been released, as well as two Exorcist sequels and a remake... all I can say to that is WHY? WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU EVEN TRY?
You're obviously not going to get a movie that's scarier or has more staying power than this.
...you would also think that that movie turned me [like so many of the people who saw it] into someone devoutly religious because they feared the mere idea of possession...
that is also not true.
But as far as my religious preference goes, I'm a Christian and I prefer practicing my spirituality in the confines of my own home one-on-one with God to becoming part of a church. But I do consider the idea from time to time.