Reviews: The Exorcist

The power of narm compels you!

I first saw this movie on some long-forgotten channel that specialized in cheesy, overblown C-grade horror films. One night, they ran The Exorcist, and I didn't find much in it that made it stick out among the rest of the channel's offerings. Apart from maybe one or two provocative cinematographic choices and the appearance of Von Sydow (whom I assumed to be slumming it for a paycheck)... I just saw it, had some laughs at the no-doubt intentional campiness, and promptly forgot about it. Been there, done that; on to Children of the Corn, Part XVII: The Reapening (after getting some more of them deep-fried sautee-spicy chicken beaks/pig sphincters on sticks)!

It was only later that I discovered this was regarded as some type of classic in its genre. The mind boggles. Granted, I'll give it that it was probably way ahead of the curve in the "demonic possession" sub-genre of horror. It also had the good fortune of being made before horror painted itself into a creative corner and transformed, in the public consciousness, into the put-upon niche genre existence it's known for decades. The production side of things certainly isn't a rushed affair; but nothing all that extraordinary. Elevating this to the level of stylistic, ahem, gospel is a bit of a spit in the face of the many lesser known talents of the idiom.

I guess there's something to be said for the film being a pioneering endeavour. But the film's still got to be judged on its own merits, in the light of cinematic progress. And even having rewatched the film in a new light, that's still a pretty iffy call for me personally. A lot of people give horror flak, and often rightly so, for relying on deliberately flammatory shock tactics; horror for the sake of horror. But these same people praise The Exorcist to high heaven, despite a linguistically saucy script that just becomes a groan-inducing narmfest after the 66.6th mention of matriarchs fellating cockerels in Cocytus. It's not scary, it's just dumb. I can only attribute it to cheesy shock tactics, of the same nature described above.

I doubt I need to further underline how much poor choices undermine any and all attempts at build suspense or, indeed, terror. It's like the "Hail Satan" scene of Rosemary's Baby extended to feature-length running time.