The issue with many older horror movies is that what was once shocking, scary and frightening for its time, seems quite tame compared to the horror movies made today. Movies that may have scared people, like The Omen or Nightmare on Elm Street, just don’t quite have the impact anymore because audiences have become more desensitized to violence, horrific imagery and even the feeling of impending doom.
That is why The Exorcist seems to stand the test of time because no matter how old the movie gets and how desensitized the audiences seem to get, some of the scenes will always be difficult to watch. It’s still a struggle to sit through the scene with the possessed Regan and her crucifix, and that is before we’ve even got to the exorcism itself.
Other movies have tried imitating The Exorcist, with exorcisms of their own, that mimic the final moments of this movie, but few actually succeed as well as this movie does. The key is Regan herself, the possessed girl, played by Linda Blair.
Regan goes through many terrifying stages of exorcism that defy logic and still make you feel uneasy as you watch. The thrashing in the bed, the head spinning 360 or the marks appearing and then disappearing on the body. These are all great effects easily achieved today but make so much more of an impact when you think that these were achieved back in the early 70s, when CGI wasn’t even close to an option.
The other aspect that puts The Exorcist above other horror movies is that it doesn’t rely on jumps or shocks to scare. It’s the experience itself that is terrifying and is probably the reason so many people struggled to watch the movie when it was first released. The words spoken by Regan, the bad language, coupled with the demonic voice and the other things she does, all add-up to an uncomfortable watch, even today.
The movie isn’t perfect though. The final exorcism is built-up to quite a poor climax and plays such a minor part of the whole film. It feels like the best aspect is brushed past and is over before the full impact can be felt. The ending can also feel slightly cheap and “easy” compared to the stress and issues that have come before. These are minor complaints though and easy to look past when watching a horror classic.
Overall, The Exorcist is still a fantastic horror movie because at its core it deals with uncomfortable subject matter. Some of the actions of Linda Blair’s Regan would still shock today and this is why it made such an impact in the 70s and continues to be viewed as a classic today. It may not be terrifying anymore but it will stay with you once the credits have rolled.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)