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Day 31: The Exorcist

Day 31 of Calloween Movie Month

Content warnings: mild blood and gore, child harm, suicide, elderly death, religion/loss of faith, emetophobia, homophobia, body horror

Recommended?: Yes

That wasn't the demon yelling slurs middle schoolers are just like that.

Horror Movie Caps

The Exorcist follows a mother, Chris, tirelessly seeking help for her daughter, Regan, after she starts behaving strangely. After exhausting all her medical options as Regan's behavior gets worse, Chris enlists the help of a priest. A young man named Damien Karras who's struggling with his faith after the death of his mother.

Ever since I was old enough to know about horror movies, I've been told The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever made. My own mother even told me, a 20 year old man, that watching the film would straight up traumatize me, and expressed her lack of sympathy for the future me who would be crying and unable to sleep. So, was it the scariest thing ever to grace my eyes? Did it traumatize me? Ruin my fragile young mind?

...No. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a rock solid horror film deserving of its status as a classic in the genre.

It's not without it's problems. I'm not sure if the pacing is fixed in the theatrical cut or what parts are missing from it, but I found decent chunks of it to be overly slow and a bit dull. Mostly in the first half. Which really dragged it down for a bit. I know it's a slow burn, but it wasn't quite building up tension the way I had hoped. There's also the various demon voices, which do sound fairly silly and tend to make the scenes with them a decent bit less effective.

Besides that though, there's a lot to love. While I can't say it's a personal favorite of mine I can understand why it is for so many.

I'm not usually big into movies involving possession. They tend to fall pretty flat for me and it can fall into some ableist tropes fairly often. (Which, to this film's credit, it goes out of it's way to dissuade when Chris seeks help from psychiatrists and they don't do anything for her.)

This film sets itself apart from those in a couple of major ways. For one, it's willing to get extremely brutal and twisted with the way the possession effects Regan. It twists her body in impossible ways and wounds her from head to toe. It makes her sick and dirty. It spits the kind of verbal venom even some of the brattiest children wouldn't be able to. It's malicious, sometimes animalistic and violent.Which brings me to my second point. It never fails to acknowledge that Regan is still stuck inside this body that the demon is abusing and using for evil. She's just a child, and while she's still fully cognizant she cries and begs for her mother and asks what's wrong with her. It's really heartbreaking. It's really bittersweet watching Father Karras be so gentle with her, and makes the film less cruel than it would be.

I also loved Father Karras' arc. He blames himself for the death of his mother. It haunts his dreams and sticks in his mind in his waking hours. To the point it even makes him question his faith despite being a priest. He's already a self-sacrifical person before he ever enters the McNeil household. So when he actually does sacrifice himself to save Regan after all else fails, it's sad, but it feels like a perfect end to his story. It's hard to imagine it happening any other way. In a film full of harrowing imagery, the sight of his blood covered body twitching at the bottom of the stairs after saving a child's life might be the single most harrowing.

In The Exorcist, God is not dead, he simply does not offer a helping hand to those who need it most.

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