Sabbath Reviews: The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist (1973)

Directed by William Friedkin
Written by William Peter Blatty

I have a confession to make.  No, I’m not gay or super gay.  Not that there’s anything wrong with either.  Be straight, be gay, or be gay with a giant S on your chest and a weakness to green rocks.  I don’t really give a fuck.  No, the truth is I’m almost twenty-three and I realized that I have never seen the horror movie classic that is … The Exorcist.

Yeah, yeah.  I’ve been yelled at often about it..  I’ve heard it before:  How could I call myself a lover of film and never have seen The Exorcist?  Probably the same way I can call myself a lover of film and still not have seen a single Godfather movie or watched more than half of Scarface – which, by the way, I didn’t watch all the way through because it wasn’t living up to expectations and I couldn’t see why it got more praise than De Palma’s Carlito’s Way.  Now that you’re all sufficiently angry with me, I’m going to deliver the right hook.

The Exorcist sucks as a horror movie.  I’m pretty sure that opinion’s as popular as naming your first born son Adolf in Israel, but it’s the cold truth.  It seems I get a lot of people telling me “It was scary back then”, but these same people told me it was one of the scariest films ever …which sort of implies that it’s timeless, no?  Shouldn’t a good horror film succeed outside of its decade?  Think of all your favorite horror movies that aren’t The Exorcist (and if The Exorcist is one of them, I really should punch you in the spine) and they all still have something in common: they’re probably still fucking scary.  Maybe not to you who knows every twist and turn, but to people who don’t know them? I sure hope so.

Let me say something GOOD about the film though.  I won’t knock the special effects because not only were they good for the decade but some things still hold up — like the make-up.  The pea soup vomit?  Not so much., but that’s okay.  It’s fine.  I’m one of those who prefers practical effects to CGI (here, here fellow film snobs) and yes, I too believe George Lucas should be anally violated by the mutated freaks from The Hills Have Eyes for Jar Jar Binks.  Now that I’ve earned some street cred, let me remind you that I still think this film blows.  You like how I do that?  I warm you up, get you back on my side, then pee in your cornflakes.  We’re already in an abusive relationship but it’s the best one you’ll ever have and after all, you don’t deserve better.

The acting’s fine too.  Linda Blair does a great job.  Jason Miller (Father Karras) is also really believable and even though you can tell he’s not a film actor — he had only done Broadway previously — it just works. The problem is the film isn’t scary — and I can’t imagine it being in any other decade either, mostly because it was hilarious.  You have a little girl masturbating with a crucifix and screaming “Let Jesus fuck you!” — seriously.  I’ve heard about the scene before but never thought it would be so piss-my-pants funny.  When the Scary Movie franchise parodied The Exorcist they really didn’t have to try too hard.  The groundwork was laid right there for them.  “Your mother sucks cock in Hell” is more of something a kid would say on the playground …. okay, at least it’s something I would have said on the playground.  And that voice …. Good God!  That fucking voice!  Who knew Pazazu was a Marlboro Man?

I just don’t get how I can see this movie at the top of so many horror lists.  I’m not sure what their criteria is, ’cause if it’s scare quotient — this shit just falls flat.  Normally I’m cool with my horror films to have a steady build-up and not necessarily jump at you straight out of the gate (see: Audition), but this was a slow steady build up to a couple of chucks and one genuinely creepy moment … and it involved Karras’ dead mother sitting on the bed looking at him.  Yeah.  Granny pulled off the one good creep of the film.  The demon on the other hand should consider a career in stand-up comedy.  Somebody needs to fill Greg Giraldo’s spot.

I could have tackled a film that was more recently made for my first review since, I don’t know, 37 years seems like a long time for a film to get a new review but … bite me.  I was grossly misled by the public’s opinion and this is my revenge, and maybe to give voice to the small minority who thought that a chick masturbating with a crucifix and telling the Christian son of God to fuck her was hysterical but were too afraid to say it.  Don’t be afraid anymore to stand up.  Raise your crucifixes high and jam them into your crotch, brothers.  We will not be silenced any longer.

Let Jesus fuck you.  

— Sabbath


5 Responses to “Sabbath Reviews: The Exorcist (1973)”

  1. I agree with you that I personally am not scared by The Exorcist. I think the reason that it’s widely accepted as a scary movie is because the general public has fundamental Christian beliefs. The Devil is the big bad boogey man in church every Sunday and The Exorcist was the first movie that really showed what preachers had been trying to scare people with for years. Yeah, it has become a joke ever since and possession has been done so many times since, it’s lost it’s teeth. Fun Fact: There are some hardcore church goers in my family who won’t even watch The Exorcist, like they’ll get possessed by proxy or something.

    To me, everyone has their own beliefs. I won’t go into mine, but I was raised Christian. The Exorcist was never scary to me, because to me it made The Devil look like HellBoy. It was cartoonish evil, over the top “LOOK AT ME” nonsense. The bible always portrayed Satan as a manipulative schemer. I want Machiavellian malevolence in my supreme evil. Not petulant hysterics.

  2. I have to admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of this film either. Maybe it was too much hype surrounding it, maybe it’s the fact that this didn’t even scare me as a little kid. I think it’s an expertly made film and by no means terrible, but it just doesn’t stand up as one of thre greatest horror films ever. It’s, for lack of better wording, a tourist film. It’s for the multiplex crowd. I thought this might be the first big argument among us all and so far, we’re all on the non-popular side of the street on this one. I have to add, after my first viewing of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a kid, I got the same sense of disapointment and bewilderment as to how it was a classic. Yet, after repeated viewings as I got older, I now fully understand why TCM is a classic and I’m fully on board with both the love and respect. Never happened with The Exorcist, though. It’s still an underwhelming mall film to me.

  3. This movie broke all the taboo’s at the time but it was never all that scary even to a lightweight like me. Agreed with all the opinions given.

  4. As a kid…I was almost afraid to watch this movie…given the hype surrounding it. I finally did watch it, and I kept waiting for it to get scary. And I kept waiting. Shit, I’m still waiting. It was an interesting, well made movie…and I appreciate it’s place in history, but I was extremely disappointed with it. I have similar feelings about John Carpenter’s Halloween.

  5. I thought I’d get more heat for the article, but it’s good to see I’m not the only one who didn’t find this film scary at all. I was hoping at least somebody would want to spar with me, but that’s cool.

    Always loved John Carpenter’s Halloween though. I grew up on the series — as in my grandmother loved slasher flicks and from the age of 3 onward I’d watch them all the time at her house. Halloween holds a special place in my heart and even though I know all of the beats and scares now, I know originally it did get to me.

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