The Exorcist

The Exorcist ★★★★★

The second in tonight's double feature theater experience of 1973 horror classics, and the viewing that finally brought my rating of this film up to exactly where it should be. The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror films ever made, a bold and powerful exorcise in terror that makes me wish I could have been born in the 1950s so that I could have experienced this film in theaters in '73 and seen a wave of nightmares sweep across the country in its wake.

Notice though how I didn't describe The Exorcist as the scariest film ever made, because as much as that hype is placed alongside it's title, it's not... mainly because there is no scariest film ever made - why compare "fear," something that is a personal, emotional reaction? It makes no sense. But aside from that, The Exorcist also doesn't really scare me, at least not in the traditional sense of scariness. It unsettles me, it disturbs me, it depresses me and it repulses me, but it's more tragic to me than it is scary. This is because it plays more like a drama than a horror film. I'm not sure what horror films are anymore with the genre so heavily populated with desensitizing jump scares, but I do know that you don't get character development and intricately crafted plots like this anymore. There's a narrative here, a real narrative, and that's not something that most horror films have anymore.

Furthermore, some might argue that the effect of this film has been dulled due to the countless number of knockoffs and imitations that it has inspired, but to me, it makes the film all the greater. It makes me appreciate how very influential and inspiring this film has been for the genre, even if it hasn't been topped and probably never will be. So while I do adore the famous special effects and soundscape within this film (Steve Boeddeker composed one of the best scores ever), that's not what I respect most about it. I respect the build and foreshadowing that the opening sequence delivers (that's how you craft an atmosphere), the critique of a narrow-minded, explanation-driven Western society, the strength and significance of the relationship between Father Karras and his mother, or of course Chris and Regan, and the subtle humanity in the character of Lieutenant Kinderman.

So yes, it is a horror film that dared to cross lines and shock audiences, but it's also a horror film that dared to take its genre seriously, to exemplify strong storytelling and complex characters, and that's what I adore most about The Exorcist.

That's what makes it one of the greatest.

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