The Exorcist (1973)
Reviewed on 2007 February 26
I still have to watch this on nights when I don’t have to get up early the next day, because after all these years it still messes with my sleep.
Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) and her actress mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn) seem to have a peaceful, well-heeled existence in their lovely house. Chris is separated from her husband but is such a devoted mom that it helps ease the pain Regan feels at not having her father around. Regan makes cute art pieces for Chris and Chris plans special birthday outings for her precocious daughter.
Regan finds her mother’s old Ouija board and starts playing with the thing, unwittingly contacting an entity named Captain Howdy. Regan starts acting strange, and Chris dismisses this as nerves but eventually decides to take her to a series of doctors to find out what’s happening to her. After a series of painful-looking and invasive tests, the doctors are just as baffled as Chris and can only suggest more tests. Chris is at wit’s end by now, and she starts to realize that Regan isn’t Regan any more. In despair she recruits Father Karras (Jason Miller) and asks him to come look at her daughter as a candidate for an exorcism. Father Karras is skeptical, but he agrees to come look at her. Soon Karras is going for backup and gets Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) to assist him.
I think most people know about the pea soup, and Regan doing a move that a Romanian gymnast on a sugar high couldn’t do, but I think the low-key stuff is more disturbing. That’s the stuff that comes back to me when I try to go to sleep. I finally saw this on the big screen last Halloween and everything, from the disturbing and disjointed beginning sequences to Father Karras’ dream, was even worse with the sound at full bore. The acting was wonderful, and Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn were remarkable in this. I think a lot of what made this so powerful is they’re such a likable mother and daughter team that you feel dread for them.
Four chocolate morsels, and a glass of warm milk. You’ll need it!