In 1973, William Friedkin released what is typically considered if not, at least one of the scariest films of all time. If you’re here for Horror Week, I’m sure you’re well aware of how big of an impact The Exorcist has had, but sometimes knowing that before watching it takes all of its power away. Sometimes a film’s worst enemy is its own hype.
Don’t get me wrong, The Exorcist is a terrifying movie experience but that was a conclusion I came to on my third watch.
When I hear others speak about their own experiences with the film, I realize that it is deeply rooted into who they are. It ends up being a film they saw at an age far too young and left them having nightmares for weeks. And maybe that’s where I went wrong as I didn’t watch it until 2015.
When I first watched it, I bought the film on its recent release and waited until midnight a few days later. I turned all the lights off and watched the film in complete darkness. I loved it, but I wasn’t terrified. The film ended, I went upstairs to my room and slept peacefully. I’m aware I’m also past the age where a movie could really cause nightmares anymore, but I had expected to at least be a bit weary of what hid in the darkness.
On my first watch, the first thing I noticed was the amazing cinematography. Owen Roizman’s shadowy cinematography begs you as a viewer to guess what is hidden in the shadows.
On my second watch, I fell in love with the performances that make everything so believable. Linda Blair’s performance as Regan is so bone chilling and haunting. It’s the characters that I grew to care for, easily. Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller as they attempt to be the shining light in the darkness are impeccable. The fact that the film was nominated for ten Academy Award’s (including Best Picture, and Director) and then won two (Adapted Screenplay and Sound Mixing) shows how incredible the work in this is.
And finally on my third watch, in the comfort of my warm and dark living room, when I saw Regan and Father Karras’ cold breath, I felt a cold chill run through my body. It left me feeling at such unease that I looked around in the dark room and could swear that I wasn’t alone.
In the end, I was wrong. It’s terrifying but it took me far too long to realize my own mistakes. It’s not easy to leave expectations out of the equation (especially with something as high as one of the scariest films of all time) but if you’re able to move past that and avoid it, you can be just like me. Scared shitless at 2 in the morning contemplating to sleep with the light on.