The Exorcist: a horror film masterpiece
This Thursday, August 15, marks the 45th anniversary of the premiere of El Exorcista in Argentine cinemas. The oldest will remember with pleasure when they could enjoy it in the cinema, provided they were of age, and others still feel the trauma that generated us when our parents made us see it for the first time through a television connected to a VHS player .
Regardless of the fact that Regan was surely the owner of many nightmares, years after its release and without leaving the fear it provokes, we can only speak of this film as a masterpiece of the horror genre. A genre that has witnessed countless imitations or productions that were inspired by this story, one that we will now review both from its cinematic side and from the impact and the strange facts that surrounded it.
For those who do not know The Exorcist is an adaptation of the homonymous novel by William Peter Blatty. The story of the film begins with a script conceived by the book's own writer, a libretto that was taken to different producers without getting positive responses. However, after the original text became Best Seller, John Calley, who at that time was head of study at Warner Bros., became interested in the project and bought all the rights.
From that moment began an arduous production, which involved endless changes in the cast and even in the team that worked behind the camera. At first they wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct the film, but when he rejected the proposal it was by William Friedkin, who in turn was the one who chose Jason Miller for the role of Father Karras over other names that sounded like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson.
The result? A perfect combination between script, director and cast that Warner Bros. surely never regretted. Beyond the grand reception by the spectators, with religious detractors aside, the criticism was overwhelming and The Exorcist was placed a few weeks after its premiere in one of the great candidates for the different awards of the year. A little later the statuettes began to arrive, winning at the Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound out of 10 nominations and rising as Best Drama Film in the Golden Globes, among three other awards received at that same gala.
But what puts this movie on the cusp of the horror genre, what elevates it to excellence. We could probably take a whole text to talk about the virtues of this work, but it is enough to see it today and notice how little it has aged, something that can be said of few films of the 70s. Its history is really terrifying and it horrifies anyone who sees it, probably because of the realism it has and its appreciation for the details. An exceptional cast that gives life to some characters as common as deep: an actress coming down by a drama that surpasses her, a Father full of problems that will test her faith and a little girl of 12 years -in an outstanding interpretation of Linda Blair - which is pushed to the limit by the demon that took its body.
The fact that paranormal events around movies are almost practically a classic of the horror genre. In this context of course we always call the phrase “believe or burst” and the most skeptical will accuse a good job of the marketing department, but the truth is that The Exorcist has been surrounded by a series of stories and facts that can make the hair tip to the most believers. Even the director William Friedkin called a priest at the time to give the blessing to both the film set and the entire cast, after strange noises were heard and unexplained things happened during filming.
The film did not take long to be accused of being cursed and we could not blame those who did it, taking into account the deaths and other events that surrounded it. On the first day of filming, almost in parallel, Linda Blair's grandfather and actor Max Von Sydow's brother (Father Merrin) lost their lives, followed by the death of actor Jack McGowran, actress Vasiliki Maliaros, a special effects expert and a caretaker of the Warner Bros. studios where the shootings were taking place. What did not take any life but did delay production was a fire that broke out on the set, burning virtually every stage except for Regan's room.
Believe or burst? That's right, but the truth is that at that time the film generated some paranoia among people and especially among religious fanatics. So much so that Linda Blair (Regan) began to receive a series of death threats that worried her family and for which the producer behind the film decided to put surveillance and bodyguards for half a year. A true nightmare for a girl who was only 12 years old.
The genre is going through today perhaps one of its worst moments, with productions that arrive more in quantity than in quality. Except for some exception such as the recent Hereditary, it is hard to find examples within contemporary horror movies that seek to go beyond the special effect created by CGI or the effective jumpscare. Although this is not the most encouraging scenario, it comforts us that it serves as a perfect excuse to go to our personal video library and relocate (surely the remastered version) of The Exorcist.