The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist (1973) movie poster

director William Friedkin
viewed: 10/22/2016 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

“I’ve seen The Exorcist about 167 TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT!” – Beetlejuice

Okay, I’m not quite up there with Herr Beetlejuice, but I’m with him in spirit.

I actually had probably only seen it once before this, decades ago.  So the opportunity to see it on the big screen and share that with my kids was prime.

I grew up in the generation over which this movie loomed.  “The scariest movie ever made” to many, many people.  And I think that it’s important to keep that in the context of its time.  Because it is a very well-made and well-acted movie and features some iconic moments and effects, things that were absolutely shocking in 1973.

But “scary” is an ever-evolving thing.  And once it’s out there, it quickly become appropriated, subsumed, regurgitated (even projectile-regurgitated), and effects and technology change the movie game as well.  The effects are pretty great, but they are also kind of comic as well.  In fact, the whole thing plays much more to the comedic and absurd than terrifying.  My son thought it was hilarious.  My daughter was nonplussed.

One thing that put her off was the pacing.  It’s a slow build-up, creating the mood of normalcy that is about to go awry, the pressure on Jason Miller’s Father Damien.  And then even when things cut loose, it’s one crazy possession scene cutting back to slower, quieter narrative moments.  And I’d say that it’s not that this is bad, but rather that it’s an unusual tempo in comparison to a lot of things.

It’s a pretty brilliant movie, in my mind, whether scary or side-splittingly funny.  It doesn’t get a whole lot more iconic in modern horror.  And let us not forget that all this intense visual imagery from the projectile vomit, the levitation, the spider-walk, or the head spin, this was all brand-new, fresh, original shit.  Hence copied, aped, paid homage to, culturally referenced into banality almost.

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