3.0 out of 5 starsDisturbing in places but not scary
ByGroovemonkeyon 10 July 2012
I first watched The Exorcist back in the days of video nasties - news that someone had a vhs of the movie spread like word of an underground concert and about six of us convened to watch it one night. Easy to argue that six or so teenagers in a room was not the right way to see the movie for the first time, but overall it left me feeling strangely let down. I had watched the Evil Dead in similar circumstances and some of the imagery from that haunted me for weeks. The only part that scared me was that sudden flash of the black and white face during the dream sequence, and although I found much of the rest disturbing, it didn't scare me. I've watched it about four or five times in my life hoping to find what others see but now I understand why I don't. The narrative of the film suffers from some fairly insensitive editing that sees scenes end abruptly, sometimes the moment a key line is delivered. It's a personal thing, but that destroys a lot of atmosphere for me. Most of the plot of the film feels peripheral to the posession. The movie set, parties etc add don't develop the plot and to me feel like an arbitrary background for the story. Obviously the priest losing his faith is a key part of the story, but the film never develops on whether he does regain his faith in any meaningful way - we can assume it of course, but there is no dialogue i.e. between Karras and the exorcist to let the audience know. Overall I have a general feeling that the screenplay skips over the surface and doesn't drill down enough into characters feelings and motivations enough. I also felt that Pazuzu the demon, didn't get many good lines - of course many of the lines are iconic and instantly recognizable - but very little that exposes any discernible character or ancient intelligence. Lee J Cobbs detective is played as a key character, but is no more that a cypher accomplishing nothing - essentially arriving just in time (for no apparent reason) to look shocked at the end. I don't understand the adulation The Exorcist recieves - and having watched it again last night, I know I've watched it for the last time. It's not a great film - it was a groundbeaking film at the time in terms of shock value - but it's not well directed, it's adequately directed and it's not scary. Perhaps if you belived that some of the events depicted in the film could actually happen, it could be terrifying, but I don't, and perhaps that's why I don't get this film. I found the 'making of' film far more interesting - it shows the lengths that Friedkin would go to to get the reactions from the cast he needed. On the plus side, unlike most demonic posession films, Exorcist never toys with you - from the first, it's clear that Regan has a demon inside her, it's not one of those is she insane or isn't she? movies. I don't write reviews designed to get' 2 of 19 people found this review helpful' often, but I know there must be others out there who are mystified by this film - this review is for both of you : ) Incidentally, I recently rewatched Rosemary's Baby  [DVD], and that film has barely aged, losing virtually none of it's power to disturb.