I finally got around to watching The Exorcist, a Netflix rentals I have had lying around for over a month. And, to top that off, I don't think I have ever watch it from start to end. I read the book oh so many years ago, but that's about it. For some reason, some horror flick that pivoted so completely on a grandiose battle of good vs. evil on a stage replete with religious trappings just was not drawing me in. But I finally put this version, the original not the restored one, onto the player and sat back.
And was blown away. Director William Friedkin took his time getting there and it made the arrival all the more anticipated. The first third of the movie merely showed the various principles in their normal lives, leavened with only a touch of strangeness - the odd noises coming for the attic of the Georgetown townhouse owned by Ellen Burstyn's actress character, Chris MacNeil. She shows way more spunk than I would have, going up into the dark attic with a candle, investigating the sounds. I'd be too afraid, not of ghosts but of a rabid raccoon or something!
But gradually her daughter, Regan (of course, Linda Blair, all of 14 years old herself), begins to exhibit some strange behaviors, like swearing, bouncing the bed up and down, and the like. Then come the most unsettling scenes in the movie for me, the father of two young girls - Regan getting scanned for possible brain lesions to explain her erratic actions. Really gave me the chills watching her go under the knife and get stuck in a room with machines.
Things get worse and worse and the mother finally brings in a reluctant Catholic priest to help out. Much screaming, hollering, religious mumbo jumbo and bloodshed later, she is finally cured. Very exciting stuff.
I am so glad to have finally watched The Exorcist. Really an exciting and tense movie, well worth its classic status. I loved how long the buildup was; it really made for some edge of the seat viewing. Friedkin sure is in love with filming long, usually solo, walks though. Right from the start, when he followed Mas von Sydow through a long walk through an Iraqi city, walks figured prominently throughout the movie. The religious mumbo jumbo got a little hard to take and weakened the thrills at the end a little, but it was good that in the end it didn't seem to really be the thing that got rid of the demon. Inner demons seemed to be the key.
I did watch about half of Friedkin's commentary, and it was interesting. He told of the search for an actress to play the mother's part. Burstyn campaigned early for it, but the studio wanted a name actress like Fonda or Hepburn, but eventually Burstyn got the part, and it of course worked very well. He also talked some about the writing process, how he urged William Peter Blatty to go back and do it again, as his original script overemphasized the "horror" parts of his book.
So a big thumbs up for The Exorcist. I'm wondering now if I should try the newer, "Restored Version", which adds over 10 minutes of footage. I originally had both in my Netflix queue, but I decided one was enough. Now I think I'll need to try the new one too!