The Exorcist (1973)

Starring: Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn

Director: William Friedkin

Bit Part: the great Lee J. Cobb

FACT: Everybody named above suffered from ‘The Curse of The Exorcist’ and died premature deaths. Apart from Blair and Burstyn. Oh and Von Sydow, obviously. And Friedkin’s still alive. And Jason Miller lived till he was 65. 

So it’s not as scary as ‘The Curse of Dad’s Army’.

In a word: Twelve year old girl is possessed by the devil.


Current thinking on this film is that ‘it’s not that scary any more’. There is some logic behind thus statement, especially in a more secular world to the one in which the film is released and the exponential growth in increasingly gory and allegedly psychological horror films over the past thirty years.

 However, this ‘not scary’ cliché is usually trotted out by:

  • people who’ve watched it with about twenty other people
  • thick people
  • teenagers trying to impress their mates (who then have to get in bed with their parents after shitting their own beds)
  • liars

Whether you’re one of the above or not, The Exorcist is a genuinely unsettling experience when watched alone (in the dark, about two in the morning), and this is one of the reasons why the BBFC refused to issue video certification for so long.

Von Sydow is as good as ever as the experienced priest guiding the younger, vulnerable Father Karras (the excellent Jason Miller) through the process of Regan McNeil’s exorcism.

Good as these two are, the film belongs to Linda Blair. Her astonishing performance obviously played some part in her later degeneration into drugs and nothingness as an adult.

The best parts of the film are the conversations between Blair and Miller. The image and dialogue of the roped up Regan/Satan slyly taunting and breaking down the inexperienced and grieving Karras are outstanding and very disturbing.

Other highlights include the subliminal image of the white faced demon and the creepy demonic induced appearance of Karras’s mother on Regan’s bed.

Friedkin’s low key and often documentary style direction is inspired and is one of the main reasons why the film still holds up today.

And of course, it has the most shocking scene in mainstream cinema.* (Until all the recent French ‘nasties’ like Baise-Moi etc came along).

 *You don’t need me to tell you.