the exorcist | exorcism | demon | possessed | william friedkin | william peter blatty | ellen burstyn | max von sydow | linda blair | united states | novel | based on | lee j. cobb | kitty winn | jason miller | william o'malley | jack macgowran
Film: The Exorcist
Director: William Friedkin
Writer: William Peter Blatty
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Linda Blair
This film begins in Northern Iraq, where an older priest is doing an archeological dig, played by Max von Sydow. He discovers a small statue of the head of a demon while doing this. He goes into town where we see that he has to take glycerin tablets for his heart.
We next meet a family where the mother is a movie star; she is played by Ellen Burstyn, who is making a film in Georgetown. Her daughter is played by Linda Blair and she is a teenager who likes to make art projects. They are happy family with their housekeepers.
Early on, Blair tells her mother that she talks to a spirit on an Ouija board named Capt. Howdy. Soon after Blair becomes ill and her mother starts to take her to the doctors. They can’t seem to find out what is wrong with her though. No matter what they diagnose with her, it doesn’t help.
Burstyn has a party where all of her friends and others are invited. Included is a younger priest, played by William O’Malley. Near the end of this party, Blair comes down and says a cryptic message before urinating on the carpet.
Burstyn tries everything to find out what is wrong with her daughter. The problem is she continues to get worse and her life might be in danger. When medical reasons do not find what is wrong, the doctors recommend her a last resort is to ask a faith she doesn’t follow to save Blair from what could be inside her.
This leads Burstyn to a younger priest, played by Jason Miller, who is also a psychiatrist to help see if an exorcism will help. The stacks are raised when the director of the film that Burstyn is playing in, the director is played by Jack MacGowran, is found dead at the bottom of the steps across from the window of Blair’s room. The detective put in charge of this case, played by Lee J. Cobb, starts to look into some of the odd circumstances. This brings him to meet with both Burstyn, Miller and to start looking at the house.
Can Burstyn find out what is wrong with Blair before it is too late? Is she really possessed? If she is possessed, will the spirit she has inside her kill her before it can be expelled?
This film is simply amazing. We have a religious film were science is used to exhaust all medical reasons as to why she is sick, but there is no answer. In that sense it is great because they don’t immediately use that as the answer and it takes quite a while before they come to that conclusion. Having also read the book, I think it is great to actually have the writer of the novel doing the screenplay. The adaptation of the feel, story and everything was well done there. An added dimension to the story is also that Burstyn is a famous actress, so she is doing what she can to keep this from getting out to the public.
Issues that arise in this film are the love of a mother for her daughter, which is mirrored in the same aspect of Jesus/God’s love for his ‘children’ as well where the demon has possessed one in the same and need to save them. Another issue is the battle of good and evil and whether good can overcome evil. There is also the issue of losing your faith and trying to find it again as well.
The acting in this is great; especially from Blair as being at her age she does well for physically pretending to be possessed. She doesn’t use her own voice, but the way she moves her head while talking or doing certain thing is scary. Burstyn is solid as the mother who is exhausted and pushed to the edge with worry. Sydow is great as the exorcist. He commands the scenes when he is there. Miller is also very interesting in this film as well. He is a younger priest, who has lost his faith and questions whether or not this is even a possession. What makes it even better, I get the feeling that at times during the investigation stages, he thinks it is because the demon uses little things we see throughout the film on him, that only he knows.
The score to this film is absolutely amazing. The songs used bring an eerie feeling to the scenes and it really ramps up the tension. Going along with the tension, for a film that runs between 120-140 minutes, it doesn’t feel like it. Scenes that don’t seem to have meant anything end up having importance later. Despite that length, the film builds until the climax. It is crazy how scary a film like this can be when the exorcism doesn’t happen until the last like 25 minutes. The final thing to talk about here is the effects. From the time period this came out, they were done all practically. The make-up of Blair looks great. The vomiting and other things she does while possessed look real. Now I will say that if you watch the updated version with the newer effects, some of those are done with computers and CGI, but I thought they were subtle enough where it works.
I would highly recommend this film if you want to see a scary movie. The acting is great; the story is solid, even though it isn’t highly complex. Seeing the pain that Burstyn feels for her daughter is great. The dilemma she faces and seeing the battle of Sydow and Miller against the demon is great as well. This film scared me the first time I saw it and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a great horror film.
My Rating: 10 out of 10