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Chris Mac Neil
A famous actress temporarily living in Georgetown to complete an ongoing film project. When her daughter Regan shows signs of a Demonic Possession, Chris has an emotional breakdown and eventually turns to Father Karras to exorcise her child.
- Adult Fear: Chris' worst nightmare. Regan is slowly possessed and consumed by Pazuzu, causing Chris to have a breakdown, prompting her to turn to doctors, neuroscientists, psychologists, and finally Father Karras for help.
- Broken Bird: Quickly has an emotional breakdown from Regan's behaviour, Burke's death, and the demonic mayhem causing chaos for her family.
- Death Cry Echo: Has one when Pazuzu implies Regan murdered Burke.
- Determinator: Chris goes through a lot of trauma in the movie, but never stops fighting for Regan.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Quick to anger, she often snaps at those who can't explain what is happening to her daughter.
- Mama Bear: Devoted to her daughter despite her busy schedule, and goes to the ends of the earth to free Regan from Pazuzu's control.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Chris pretends to be dumb so people can explain things to her.
- Screaming Woman: Poor dear does a lot of this, but with good reason.
- That Thing Is Not My Child!: The impression Chris eventually gains when Regan goes crazy. Actually says it word for word when speaking to Karras, convincing him to inspect Regan.
Regan Mac Neil
Chris' twelve-year old daughter. Introduced as a sweet, innocent girl, Regan starts exhibiting abnormal behaviour after making contact with "Captain Howdy" via an Ouija board. It soon becomes clear that a demon has possessed her, replacing the kind Regan with a foul-mouthed, violent, blasphemous monster hellbent on consuming the girl in body and soul.
- Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: Make that bile-splattered pyjamas. Regan wearing a nightgown that gets covered in green gunge and blood throughout the film.
- Break the Cutie: Regan is clearly terrified by her behaviour and Pazuzu's cruelty. Though she forgot or at least suppressed what happened at the end of the film.
- Children Are Innocent: Emphasized in the film through Regan's possession.
- Creepy Child: Becomes one during the film, becoming quiet, eerie, before becoming more aggressive, rude, and eventually is taken over by Pazuzu.
- Demonic Possession: Without a doubt the most famous in cinema history.
- Exorcist Head: The Trope Namer.
- Imaginary Friend: Regan treats Captain Howdy is this. She was wrong.
- Split Personality: Chris speculates that Regan has this, the doctors tell her it's very unlikely but suggest that she may be dissociating out of "guilt" over her parents' divorce. They're the ones who explain "somatiform possession" (a person believes he is possessed) and suggest the exorcism. Chris says if Regan feels guilty it's because she killed Burke — a secret that Chris is determined never to reveal until she distraughtly spills it to Fr. Karras. Naturally Regan wasn't the one who killed him.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Regan was very sweet, cheery and innocent before Pazuzu drops in for a visit. In fact, she is somewhat shy and diffident, not the type to even contemplate any of this stuff.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Poor Regan vomits out green bile throughout the film, blowing chunks into Karras' face when he asks Pazuzu what his mother's maiden name. Does it again when Merrin begins the exorcism.
Father Damian Karras
A troubled priest and psychiatrist, Father Karras lives in poverty with his mentally ill mother. When she dies, Karras has a Crisis of Faith. He is asked by Chris to investigate Regan's behaviour, prompting him to prepare for an exorcism and regain his faith in God and himself.
- Adult Fear: Karras is deeply depressed by his choice to live in poverty rather than become rich through his career as a psychiatrist. It becomes worse when his mother goes insane and all he can do is put her into an asylum until she dies, causing his grieving uncle to chew him out for his choices. Pazuzu takes full advantage of this.
- Beat the Curse Out of Him: After all of the traditional exorcism techniques fail, and Merrin dies of a heart attack, Karras proceeds to beat up Regan to get Pazuzu to possess him instead.
- Big "NO!": Karras' final word before throwing himself out the window to his death, possessed by Pazuzu and unwilling to harm Regan.
- Clean Pretty Reliable: Karras' attempt to peform CPR on Merrin fails, just thumping Merrin on the chest without performing mouth to mouth.
- Crisis of Faith: Has one after his mother dies.
- Demonic Possession: Karras forces Pazuzu to possess him, then immediately throws himself out a window to his death.
- Heroic Suicide: Throws himself out Regan's window to save her when Pazuzu possesses him.
- Take Me Instead: How he gets Pazuzu to switch bodies.
Father Lankester Merrin
An elderly priest and archeologist living in Iraq at the beginning of the film. When called upon to save Regan, he joins forces with Karras to rescue her from Pazuzu, whom he previously exorcised from a child in Africa.
- Badass Grandpa: An aging but experienced, calm, and patient man, and also a veteran exorcist who takes a no-nonsense approach to Pazuzu's antics.
- Badass Preacher: Doesn't carry a gun or magical weapons. Just the Bible, a crucifix, and his faith in God to thwart evil.
- Cool Old Guy: Doing archeology work at his age in the blazing hot Iraq. And also a determined exorcist who risks his life and health to save Regan. He ultimately dies of a heart attack.
- The Mentor: To Karras during their time together.
- Playing Gertrude: Max von Sydow was forty-four when he was cast in the role.
PazuzuA sinister demon who possesses Regan after posing as her imaginary friend Captain Howdy. He has a history with Father Merrin, having been previously exorcised from another child, and wants revenge against the elderly priest. Pazuzu is a violent, foul-mouthed creature, able to control Regan's body at will and has a variety of supernatural, terrorising powers.
- Animal Motifs: Pazuzu loves his locusts.
- Arch-Enemy: To Father Merrin.
- Ax-Crazy: When he possess Regan he acts savagely all the time, giving a painful Groin Attack to a psychiatrist and shouting obscenities at everyone.
- Big Bad: Of the book and film series.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Most of his dialogue involves him cursing like a sailor, usually with sexual or blaphemous insults. Amongst his greatest hits:"Stick your cock up her ass, you motherfucking worthless cocksucker!"
- Consummate Liar: As pointed out by Merrin.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: A rather violent example. He makes Regan stab herself in the genitalia with a crucifix and tries to force her mother to lick her bleeding area.
- Demonic Possession: His speciality.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Judging by how Regan's voice gets demonic deep when he's in her body, this must be his natural voice.
- Exorcist Head: Does it twice. It is implied he may have killed Burke by doing this to him.
- For the Evulz: Except wanting revenge on Merrin for having him exorcised from a child's body, he seems to possess people and causing mass killings simply because he likes it.
- Faux Affably Evil: Acts relatively polite and even chummy to Karras, but this quickly vanishes when Merrin is summoned to remove him.
- Giggling Villain: Pazuzu giggles a lot during the exorcism, particularly when Karras walks in to find Merrin dead.
- Good Wings, Evil Wings: Pazuzu's statue has four bird-like wings.
- Groin Attack: A rather gruesome, bloody version when he makes Regan masturbate using a crucifix.
- Also attacks a psychiatrist by grabbing his testicles.
- Imaginary Friend: Poses as Captain Howdy to possess Regan.
- Jerk Ass: He takes a great enjoyment in tormenting not only Regan but the people close to her.
- Kick the Dog: Likes doing this to Karras during their encounters, using his guilt for letting his mother die.
- Mind Screw: Enjoys messing with Chris and Karras, using voices of the dead to torment them.
- Nightmare Face. The few moments he shows himself we see a white pale face with dark rings around his dull, red eyes and brown, crooked, rotting teeth.
- No Name Given: Pazuzu is not actually named onscreen.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: He's quite foul mouthed.
- Sore Loser: Is he ever. The only reason why he possesses Regan is to kill Merrin in a bid of petty revenge for casting him out of a child in Africa.
- Voice of the Legion: Pazuzu pretends there are numerous demons inside Regan, but Merrin reveals he is lying.
- Would Harm A Child: He not only causes Regan to harm herself, but he goes into Karras's body so that he could use him to kill her because she was worthless to him now.
- Would You Like to Know How They Died?: Invoked by Pazuzu to Chris, implying Regan murdered Burke (in his voice).
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: We only see his pale face for just a second. However, the monstrous winged statue seen at the beginning of the film is based on the actual Pazuzu of Babylonian mythology.
- Your Mom: Often insults Karras' late mother."Your mother sucks cocks in Hell, Karras, you faithless slime!"
Burke DenningsChris' friend and an eccentric film director. He is mysteriously killed halfway through the film, falling out of Regan's bedroom window down the infamous flight of stairs below.
- The Alcoholic: Drunk as a skunk during Chris' party.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Killed offscreen, but revealed to have fallen from Regan's window, down the steep flight of stairs below, and found with his head twisted around backwards.
- Deadpan Snarker: Even when he is dead.
- It Amused Me: Hounds Chris' butler Karl for being German, referring to him as a Nazi, but admits it was for a laugh.