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:
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."Video clip can be seen here.
"You would like that?"
"But wouldn't that drive you out of Regan?"
"It would bring us together."
"You and Regan?"
"You and us".
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.