The Exorcist

The Exorcist

Warner Brothers

Original release: December 26th, 1973
Certificate: 18
Running time: 122 minutes

Director: William Friedkin
Writer: William Peter Blatty (written for the screen by), William Peter Blatty (Novel)
Composer: Jack Nitzsche, Mike Oldfield, Krysztof Penderecki

Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow and Linda Blair

What is it about horror that fans appreciate and enjoy? Why are we so drawn to it? We can easily show a negative reaction to a bad horror film when we don’t feel the fear or terror but a true horror film introduces the audiences to their fears. A true filmmaker knows when, where and how to scare the audiences.

For me, true horror is when a dialogue or a specific scene psychologically affects your mind and leaves you thinking that you’re with the characters and you’re in danger as much as they are. True horror is when you feel the suffering through the dialogues. Hitchcock once said “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” When audiences suffer by watching a horror film, it means they are in an emotional state; horror is emotion.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist‘s story centers on a possessed teenage girl, Regan (Linda Blair) and her mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), who seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter. Released long before I was born, its impact is still alive as much as it was affective the day it was released. Entertainment Weekly and Maxim voted it as one of the scariest films of all time. In a 2007 poll conducted by the UK’s The Times for the Top 50 Scariest Movie Moments, this film topped the list.

Upon its initial release it affected audiences so strongly that at many theaters paramedics were called to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics. The first time I saw The Exorcist was a few years ago and it changed the way I look at horror films now. I was advised as a film lover and as horror genre aficionado by many people to watch it, yet I paid no attention until that evening.

My palms were sweating, I was sitting alone and it was a cold evening. The only sound in the room was the ticking of the clock and the voices. Voices of the characters coming from the television. I don’t scare easily but a true horror film should be convincing and believable. I have to suffer and relate to the tension of the characters. I the perfection of horror. The tease and the emotional state of the character. Even the emotions of the evil.

The atmosphere is a major player. A major character all by itself. A true filmmaker can point his camera at an empty hallway for a while without dialogue. The only sound on the screen is the music, which naturally in my opinion, should affect the audience, it begins to puzzle the them. It will be the magic of the filmmaker who, in his own unique style, builds the tension.

The Exorcist

The audience will feel that something is about to happen. and I have to agree with Hitchcock again; there is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it. My only tensions were two scenes though; Regan turning her head back and the infamous spider-walk.

The concept of the film is not to construe the impact of evil over innocence or even the involvement of religion. What we must look at closely here is the importance of Regan’s surrounding. An angel stands in the form of her mother with the power to rise against evil and bring back her innocent daughter. A daughter she gave birth to, now lost, taken by evil.

When I watch a horror film, it’s not the gory image that scares me. I actually try my best not to watch films that are gory as gore doesn’t represent fear. It’s eye-candy. What scares me are atmosphere and dialogue that translate tension. Then rest of the fear depends on my own imagination during the film and after the film.

The Exorcist

A good horror film can make you scream and probably make some cry. Fear is a sensitive sense. It’s in us.

It can be awakened and introduced in different ways. After the credits rolled and I went to bed, there was nothing supernatural bothering my thoughts.

It was my imagination. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus. The next day I was told by family members that I was moaning in my sleep. I asked ‘define moaning.’ They said, it sounded like I was in some kind of a trouble. I smiled. My mother told me if such film disturbs me, perhaps I should cease watching them.

As I said earlier, dialogues translate tension. There were a few in this film that remained in my thoughts that night. They kept playing over and over, and in fact, some are still in my mind. In one of the scenes Chris comes to Regan and asks her, “What are you doing here?” Regan replies “My bed was shaking. I can’t go to sleep.”

The Exorcist

The beauty of Regan’s answer to her mother’s question lies in the imaginations of others. Now it’s their turn to translate those terms. My imagination translated to me that something mean and powerful is in my presence and is hiding under my bed.

Even a small sound in the house that night became a nightmarish experience. Shutting my eyes tightly and grabbing my blanket in my fists didn’t help me one bit. I fell asleep with those thoughts and my bed did not shake that night. Now that would be extremely terrible, but Regan’s response to her mother’s question did shake my mind though. That is why I prefer dialogues and atmosphere over gore in horror films. Filmmakers who understand fear are the only filmmakers who can scare us.

I find the film interesting and memorable not only because of its perfect direction and performances, but because of its message and educational purposes for aspiring writers and filmmakers. The Exorcist also explains to us the concept of good and evil and the evaluation of the relationship that humanity has with God.

“I do feel a little uncomfortable being thought of as a writer of horror fiction. I like the expression ‘ghostly fiction, because it removes the vast package of excrescence under which we lump The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween as horror.’ “Ghostly” is a much more accurate description of what I do.”
~ William Peter Blatty.

The Exorcist

Where is the beauty of horror genre today? Unfortunately, I see only a few filmmakers who have made some good horror films.

Is the horror genre going to disappear? In my opinion, it has already disappeared due to overexposure.

It’s difficult to divide the atrocious materials due to too much surfeit. What’s still fortunate is that we do have some artists who pays homage and touch the beauty of horror once in a while.

That’s why The Exorcist remains as one of the best horror films ever. It is considered a classic. It’s considered a true horror film. A film you might not want sees alone. It’s a film that after its conclusion, you will want to sleep with someone else to get over the images, dialogues and tension. But, make sure to note the last phrase though, if you are someone who wants to feel the magic of horror and are looking for a true horror film, then my advice is when your clock needle is pointing to 9pm sharp and when you are alone, pull the curtains down, insert disc and press play.

About Rohan Mohmand

Rohan Mohmand

Rohan is the lead US correspondent for Static Mass. Graduating from High School in Atlanta, Georgia in 2003, Rohan fell in love with the environment of the cinema hall and moving images on the big screen, watching Bollywood, American and Iranian films.

As an aficionado of film noir, mysteries, drama and thrillers, he enjoys the films of Alfred Hitchcock, M.Night Shyamalan, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan. Engrossed by the originality of his favourite filmmakers it opened a door for him to take on writing scripts as well.

The reverence of directors, actors, stories, art and cinema allows him to experience films with an open mind and leads him to believe strongly in the correspondence of films with the occurrences of the real world.

Rohan writes about the work of directors on his site Masters of Cinema, and you can follow him on Twitter @nightwriter22.