A film that needs no introduction, "The Exorcist" is one of the most important horror films ever made. Daring, well-acted, scripted and directed and disgusting as all hell, the film blew audiences away when it was released.
The talk of the nation, the film was repeatedly re-released to theaters before the invention of the VCR made it possible for people to watch it at home. Then, in 2000, it was re-released to theaters again in a souped-up version that included an originally cut "spider walk," featuring star Linda Blair going down a set of stairs on her back before dripping blood from her mouth. The "special edition" of the movie was a huge hit again, generating tens of millions at the box office and solidifying "The Exorcist" as the most financially successful horror film ever made.
Like so many other excellent fear films, "The Exorcist" is about how the break-up of the American family and society's eroding faith in God are making our children vulnerable to great evil.
Linda Blair is the 13-year-old daughter of famous actress and single mom Burstyn, who's struggling to hold her life together after a marital break-up. When her daughter starts goofing around with a Ouija board, Burstyn begins noticing that the girl's language and attitude are getting out of hand. During a party one night, the girl walks downstairs after being put to bed, tells a family friend that he's going to die, then urinates on the carpet.
She takes the girl to expert after expert, and no one is able to help her. Meanwhile, Blair continues to worsen, speaking in foreign languages, stabbing herself with a crucifix, murdering a family friend and finally (the last straw) turning her head 180 degrees and saying to her mother, "Do you know what she did, your cunting daughter?" Finally, mom decides it's time to see an exorcist. She begs for help from a local Catholic priest grappling with his own faith (Jason Miller), who in turn recruits long-time demon hunter Father Merrin (Von Sydow).
With gritty, realistic 1970s-style filmmaking from Friedkin (who did "The French Connection") and awesome make-up effects by Dick Smith, "The Exorcist" is a must-see, an all-around excellent movie that deserves its reputation as a classic. It isn't even remotey dated after more than a quarter century in circulation. (A "special edition" featuring a making-of documentary was released by Warner Brothers in 1998.)
One of the highest grossing movies of all time, "The Exorcist" was destined to spawn sequels over three decades. They were quite bad, save the last one. The "special edition" of the movie, spider walk and all, is worth seeing. But the definitive version will always be the original, which has a faster pace and holds together better as a film.