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The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist – 25th Anniversary Edition

Something beyond comprehension is happening to a little girl on this street, in this house. A man has been called for as a last resort to try and save her. That man is The Exorcist.

Directed by:

William Friedkin

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 122 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

Not only is ‘The Exorcist’ a creepy film, but it’s also got a creepy history. Nine people associated with the production died before it even managed to hit the screens, and word has it my own local cinema went on fire when they first tried to show it. So it’s fair to say I watched this 25th Anniversary Edition DVD with a little trepidation. Would my flat burst into flames? Would my bed come floating down the hallway? Surely a couple of flickering light-bulbs should be the least I could expect? Slightly disappointingly though, none of that happened. Actually, having said that, just an hour or so after pressing the eject button I did burn my supermarket pizza beyond all recognition and then let out a tirade of swearies as I scraped the blackened remnants into the bin – but I’m not sure that counts.

The film tells the tale of little Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a normal 12-year-old girl who lives with her mum (Ellen Burstyn) in Georgetown. At first, life seems blissfully uneventful for the merry sprog, but it’s not long before she’s throwing up a lot, growing herself a ridiculously short temper, getting a terrible complexion, and spending all day in bed. But no, she hasn’t become a teenager – it’s much worse than that. Well, slightly worse: she’s possessed by a demon!

With the medical world proving itself to be as much use as a pair of gravy pants, Mum’s soon looking to the religious fraternity for some much-needed assistance with her Hell-child. Step forward nice-but-dim priest Father Karras (Jason Miller) and seasoned exorcism pro Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) to see if they can’t drive that Satanic sod out of poor wee Regan once and for all. Throw an ongoing murder investigation and some religious vandalism into the bargain, and there’s little doubting this is a film that gives you your money’s worth.

Regarded in many circles as the finest – and scariest – horror movie ever put to celluloid, ‘The Exorcist’ continues to this day to inflict the heebie-jeebies upon practically all who see it. Sure, some of the special effects are a little dated when watched nowadays, and I personally can’t help but feel that it tends to overdo things a little on the symbolic imagery front, but there’s no denying that director William Friedkin has come up with an emphatically accomplished piece of work. The performances from each of the cast are faultless, not least young Blair who must surely look back on this and wonder where it all went wrong. Mind you, she’s far from the only child star to seemingly have the world at her feet, only to fall into a comfy-but-forgettable career of B-movie tat and straight-to-video hooey. Are you watching, Dakota Fanning?

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It's Got: Heavy breathing, projectile vomit, rotating heads, and a great idea for anyone who’s ever fancied sleeping that little bit closer to the stars.

It Needs: To have never deleted the famous “spiderwalk” scene. It’s a travesty that that’s not part of the original film.

DVD Extras Highlight of the package is the fascinating and insightful 50-minute documentary ‘Fear of God’, which looks not just as the film itself, but its ongoing impact on society. You also get an audio commentary, a look at the originally-intended ending, a 2-minute intro to the film from William Friedkin, sketches & storyboards, TV spots and a bunch of trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Exorcist II: The Heretic, Exorcist: The Beginning, Exorcist: The Beginning, Poltergeist, The Exorcist III, The Omen, The Shining

Summary

Combining in-your-face religious commentary with good ol’ fashioned horror, ‘The Exorcist’ is – and always will be – one of the most effective knee-tremblers around.

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