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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

The Exorcist
Directed by William Friedkin
Warner Bros. 01/01 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R

The Exorcist has been called by many critics "the scariest movie of all time." This DVD contains eleven additional minutes of scenes and images that were taken out of the film before its 1973 release. William Peter Blatty developed the screenplay from his immensely popular novel and garnered an Academy Award for his efforts.

The drama centers around the demonic possession of the 12-year-old daughter of a divorced Hollywood actress (Ellen Burstyn) who is in Washington, D.C., working on a movie. Regan (Linda Blair), the young girl, becomes a menacing, blasphemous, obscene creature whose bodily and facial changes undergo monster proportions. Unable to accept the demonopathic nature of Regan's transformation, her mother takes her to doctors and psychiatrists before she eventually calls upon Father Karras (Jason Miller), a psychiatric counselor for a Jesuit order. After discerning signs of possession in the case, he and Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), an elderly priest specially deputed to the office of exorcism by the Roman Catholic Church, confront the Devil in Regan. The brutal and unsolved death of a film director brings Lt. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) to the household and into the dramatic circle of the film.

There is a fascinating aspect of Satan that lures us to the edge of the pit to gaze at all the writhing abominable horrors below. Or as Friedrich Hebbel once put it: "True dramatic action arises only when the Devil ranges himself as antagonist." Here director William Friedkin uses walloping special effects and effectively induced horror sequences to convey the otherworldly force of Satan.

Although today only Christian fundamentalists seem to believe that the Devil "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8), many seekers are open to the mysteries of evil and of goodness — both of which can transcend reason. This thriller taps into that widespread interest in forces beyond human control. Viewers so taken with this subject would do well to keep this quotation by C. S. Lewis in mind when watching The Exorcist: "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail the materialist or a magician with the same delight."

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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