Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Unequaled Terror of "The Exorcist"

No issues here due to the storm. Seems New York/New Jersey got the worst of it. Aside from a messy yard and a little water in the basement, things went ok here in Massachusetts.

Fellow blogger Budd at Scifi Media had organized a blog hop a while back for Halloween. The topic is the scariest book, film, or experience one has ever seen or had. Sounded interesting and seeing that there is really only one film to ever scare me, it was an easy pick as well. Here you go.

The Unequaled Terror of "The Exorcist"
The 1973 horror film "The Exorcist" is the only film to truly scare me. I think there are two levels of the horror with this film; the obvious possession of Regan and to me the true driver of the story, the devil's retribution on the priest Lankester Merrin. As a young kid seeing this film the first level was enough to freak me out. Later as an adult the second angle made things even worse.

Right off the bat, the musical score for "The Exorcist" conveys a sense of dread and foreboding. Capped by the masterful piano piece "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield stands alone in eerie music lore:
Great piece.

If one is a fan of the literary device foreshadowing, the opening of the film in the Iraq desert sets the tone. On a dig Father Merrin is confronted with relic finds related to the demon Pazuzu. The king of demons is silhouetted against Merrin and the tension between the two forces is palpable:

From there the story revolves around the character Regan MacNeil and her Mother. We see a young woman whose mother is a famous actress in a new city. She is saddened by her Father's estrangement from her and her Mother, but overall there is nothing out of the ordinary about her.

Slowly changes build in Regan's behavior. At first they seem like ordinary young teen changes, then escalate into something more sinister. I need not recap all the scenes; you have seen them and know how disturbing they are.

As Father Damien Karras enters the film things really go to another level. Karras is a trained psychologist and a man of faith that is facing some inner issues with his belief. Chris MacNeil seeks him out after exhaustive (but inconclusive) physical tests fail to diagnose Regan's malady. 

During the course of two meetings between Regan and Karras the demon presents a case with enough evidence to meet the criteria for exorcism (speaking in foreign tongue, telekinesis, rejection of religious objects) yet allows enough doubt to remain in the mind of Karras that it is absolutely genuine. Of course that is the plan. From one of their meetings comes this terrifying dialogue:
"What an excellent day for an exorcism."
"You would like that?"
"Intensely".
"But wouldn't that drive you out of Regan?"
"It would bring us together."
"You and Regan?"
"You and us". 
Video clip can be seen here.

In a muddled recording Karras made of the demon it is found that it is English backwards. And now the movie enters in to the final phase as the demon speaks out Merrin's name.

And I believe it is here that the true terror of the film reaches a level no other film has ever come close to approaching.

Father Merrin is selected by the Church (or by the demon?) to perform the exorcism. The iconic picture as Merrin arrives at the house is timeless:

As Lankester enters the home the demon bellows "MMMMEEERRRRIIINNNNN!!!!" shaking the house. Called out by name from a being from the other side. Chilling cannot describe it.

The brutal exorcism follows and it has to be seen to be appreciated, words cannot do it. The demon gives a glimpse of it's true power to the priests as best shown by this picture:

Using psychological attacks and personal pain of the passing of Karras' mother, the demon succeeds in getting Merrin alone as he dismisses Karras.

And it is here that the terror knows know bounds.

A once defeated demon exacts revenge and retribution on Father Merrin as he suffers a fatal heart attack. Pazuzu sits and watches as Merrin's spirit must have left his body. Waiting years, waiting for the priest to become old and weak, the demon laughs at it's victory.

There is no end to the demons desire for Merrin's fall. Regans life. Chris MacNeil's sanity. Father Karras and his wounded faith and fragile soul. It's all a means to an end. This is darkness.

Courageously Father Karras is able to turn the tide by taking in the demon and killing himself. By asserting his will against the demon, light has a small victory with the return of Regan to her body. But at such costs.

So yes, "The Exorcist" is the most scary thing I have ever seen and I imagine it always will be!

Have a good night.

57 comments:

Steampunk Princess said...

I actually read recently that watching scary movies burn more calories, and The Exorcist was number three on the list! http://www.nzherald.co.nz/health-wellbeing/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501238&objectid=10843877

Hart Johnson said...

*shivers* Oh yes--very good choice. I love that overlap between the psychological and the spiritual--when it is ONLY religious, I tend to find it hokey, but if it has more layers... good stuff.

msmariah said...

That movie is also on my list. Hands down the scariest movie of all time. I can't even look at some of the pictues you have posted.

Budd said...

have you watched any of the recent exorcism movies like last rites or emily rose? They aren't nearly as effective.

a karass is a group of people brought together to do God's will and was coined by Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle(1963).

Shallee said...

Ooh, *shiver.* I've purposely never watched this because I've herd it's so scary! Thanks for sharing.

EconomicDisconnect said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments and visits! I would add watching The Exorcist would aid calorie burning because you cant eat during it or for hours after :)

Yolanda Renee said...

I picked the Exorcist as the scariest book, I read it and knew I could never sit through the movie! The book achieved its goal.

Tamara said...

I never read The Exorcist, but I watched it. Terrifying movie--and the uncut version was seriously the most disturbing thing I ever saw! Great choice!!

GawainsGhost said...

I saw the Exorcist when it first came out. My father came down and asked, "Son, do you want to go to a movie?" I said, "Sure, Dad." I couldn't sleep with the lights off for weeks.

What people don't understand about the Exorcist is that the original movie had subliminals. There were pictures of demons, sounds of angry bees and fighting animals, things that you couldn't see or hear but that got into your mind. It was terrifying.

Over 60 people committed suicide after wathing this movie. That was just in the first three months. These people would wait in line for hours to see this movie, and then go home and kill themselves.

I can understand. I saw the original when I was 13, and it scared the living crap out of me.

They actually dragged the director before Congress and asked him, "What's up with all of these suicides?" He said, "Well, maybe it has something to do with the subliminals." Congress ordered him to take them out.

It's true. That's a fact. Congress ordered the director to take out the subliminals, because people were killing themselves.

You can't watch an original version of the Exorcist today. One doesn't exist. But I saw it. I saw it when it first came out. And I'm telling you, it was the most terrifying movie I've ever seen.

GawainsGhost said...

I saw the Exorcist when it first came out. My father came down and asked, "Son, do you want to go to a movie?" I said, "Sure, Dad." I couldn't sleep with the lights off for weeks.

What people don't understand about the Exorcist is that the original movie had subliminals. There were pictures of demons, sounds of angry bees and fighting animals, things that you couldn't see or hear but that got into your mind. It was terrifying.

Over 60 people committed suicide after wathing this movie. That was just in the first three months. These people would wait in line for hours to see this movie, and then go home and kill themselves.

I can understand. I saw the original when I was 13, and it scared the living crap out of me.

They actually dragged the director before Congress and asked him, "What's up with all of these suicides?" He said, "Well, maybe it has something to do with the subliminals." Congress ordered him to take them out.

It's true. That's a fact. Congress ordered the director to take out the subliminals, because people were killing themselves.

You can't watch an original version of the Exorcist today. One doesn't exist. But I saw it. I saw it when it first came out. And I'm telling you, it was the most terrifying movie I've ever seen.

Budd said...

you won a book at the Scare Me! Blogfest. email me with an email to send it to.

Shannon Lawrence said...

That still when he first arrives at the house will always be striking. It's so perfect, such a fantastic visual. And it will forever be THE movie about exorcism and demon possession, no matter how hard they may try to duplicate or beat it.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

EconomicDisconnect said...

Shannon, could not agree more. Merrin, knowing what what was waiting, goes in anyway. Unreal picture.

CT-Hilltopper said...

Glad you survived Hurricane Sandy.

We had no power for eight days, and trees down on almost every street in the city. You literally couldnt get around for about 24 hours.

I have never seen the sky green with exploding green dots. Scary.

E-mail me sometime GYSC. We have a lot to catch up on. :-)

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Mr Slippery said...

My first reaction is to agree with you on the scariest movie of all time, and I am anything but religious.

The only other movie that "may" be in the same league is Jaws. It left a horrible scar on me, but I was only 12 when I saw it.

Honorable mentions go to Halloween and Alien. I'm probably too old to appreciate the more recent torture porn genre.

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Stagflationary Mark said...

Merry Christmas! :)

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