Director: William Friedkin
I barely recognised this film from the lurid scenes we’ve all seen in clip shows: those appearances on “100 Scariest Movies” etc do not do it justice. There are surprisingly subtle touches and an interestingly gradual pace, so the violent scenes take on greater horror as a result.
I was impressed with how it patiently covered varying aspects – medical, psychiatric, police, spiritual, adolescent emotions – albeit one missing aspect (which certainly wouldn’t have been left out these days) is the hint of child abuse?
The cast is pretty good for a 1970s horror film, but even so, when Max von Sydow strolls in, he dominates proceedings and basically gives an acting masterclass. I hadn’t appreciated what a short time he’s in the film, again having been misled by the oft-shown highlight clips.
You’re obviously meant suspend disbelief to enjoy the movie, but my main complaint is that it’s never clear how the Evil One can merrily rotate Regan’s head, levitate her whole bed and move furniture, but never free himself from being tied to the bed? The whole exorcism itself is a mix of powerful drama and cartoonish special effects, and I can’t help thinking this could have been done much more creepily.
Overall, I found it better than most of its contemporaries, but not nearly the Most Evil Film Experience In The World which some would have us believe.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
… the frisson of the film’s reputation, but who’ve been wary of venturing into actually watching it. Believe me, its reputation is much more disturbing than the film itself.