What can be written about one of the greatest horror films (if not one of the best films more broadly) of all time? What can be added to the conversation that hasn’t already been said? Quite possibly nothing, and so that is not what this reviewer will seek to do.
The Exorcist has been praised and excoriated by critics, academics, and religious leaders since its release in 1973. The film has drawn intense reactions from the day it came into theaters. Everyone has heard the stories of audience members fainting and having to be removed from the theater at original screenings of the film. In his review, released the day after Christmas in 1973, Roger Ebert gave the film 4/4 stars, but even he wasn’t entirely sure why people were seeing it, “I am not sure exactly what reasons people will have for seeing this movie; surely enjoyment won’t be one, because what we get here aren’t the delicious chills of a Vincent Price thriller, but raw and painful experience.”
This movie is also a triumph of visual effects. Watching the exorcism scenes is visceral in a way that few movies made since have been able to capture. The sight of the actors breath in the chilled room, the lesions on Regan’s face, and of course the pea green vomit seem closer somehow, the television screen acting as an entirely permeable barrier that feels far too flimsy to keep us safe.