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Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir William Friedkin
scr-prd William Peter Blatty
with Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Lee J Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, William O'Malley, Barton Heyman, Peter Masterson, Rudolf Schundler, Gina Petrushka
release US 26.Dec.73,
restored US 22.Sep.00,
73/US Warners 2h02
Is it streaming?
People who call The Exorcist the scariest movie of all time must not get out much. It's creepy, genuinely disturbing and thoroughly wrenching ... but it's not scary! As it gets into the minds of its characters, it finds powerful suspense and drama. And a startling examination of how we can never really understand the nature of mankind ... or God.
Chris MacNeil (Burstyn) is an actress on location in Georgetown with her lively, funny daughter Regan (Blair), who suddenly starts acting very strange indeed-- blue-streak swearing, green-goo spitting, levitating, head spinning and now spider stair-walking. After seeing a raft of doctors and psychiatrists, Chris turns to Father Karras (Miller) for help to exorcise the demonic spirits. But Father Karras is struggling with his own faith. And it's not until the older world-traveller Father Merrin (von Sydow) shows up that things finally start to change.
The performances are all so natural and realistic that we're drawn into the film hook, line and sinker, which makes the horrific goings on even more deeply affecting. Regan's gruesome behaviour is the stuff of nightmares (and cinematic legend!), and Friedkin spends considerable time setting everything up so that each payoff has a much more powerful, visceral impact.
The director's cut restores 11 minutes of footage to the film, along with an all-new sound mix and a few new effects shots. Surprisingly, this doesn't make it a bigger, more spectacular thriller; rather, it's now a more profoundly personal experience both for the film's characters and for us as an audience. A classic film in every way. But it's not that scary! At least I'll keep telling myself that.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SJeff Greenhalgh, net: "Even now, 28 years after its initial release this remains the most powerful and shocking film ever. Many first-time viewers complain that it's tame if compared with some of the films on offer today. This is evidently untrue. The biggest flaw in most horror films of recent years is that they often masquerade as something else. The very popular Scream trilogy ends up looking like a comic murder mystery rather than an atmospheric spine chiller. Time and time again filmgoers are served up promising, potentially genuinely scary ideas, only to be served up some watered down, half-baked idea, that may be quite entertaining but not even nearly as frightening as it could have been. And this is where The Exorcist outclasses all of its modern counterparts. It isn't afraid to pull out all the stops to frighten the hell out of its audience. But it doesn't end there, the film takes its time to develop its plot, introducing seemingly unimportant details earlier on that prove to be vital later. It's a multi-layered, complex storyline that deserves the viewers undivided attention, and this I suspect is a quality in film many of todays viewers don't expect, or recognise, after viewing the fluff normally on offer, so they dismiss it as tame or slow, and go and watch Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Haunting, afterwards declaring how brilliant it is!" (9.Aug.01)
Marcelo Ozorio Rosa, Brazil: "This is a great movie that I watch when I can! Nice actors, good story, excellent effects ... I want to see all scenes not included in the film." (23.Aug.01)
© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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