There is no doubt that it’s a scary film. But is it still terrifying all these years on? Here are eight reasons why The Exorcist is still the scariest film of all time.
Released in 1973, The Exorcist brought with it a lot of controversy. It was written for the big screen by William Peter Blatty, based on his book of the same name from 1971. It caused mass walkouts from theatres at the time, with many people passing out while watching it.
1. Linda Blair
Horror films that feature child actors are always scary. Linda Blair was thirteen years old when she was selected out of 600 applicants for the role. It’s been well documented that the role took a lot out of her. The scene where she was thrown around the bed was traumatic enough, let alone the make-up and dialogue. For a young teenager, she did an incredible acting job. She plays the innocent teenager with complete believability, as she does when she’s possessed. There’s no wonder she won various awards for her performance. Horror films are often made or broken on their actors performances. Linda Blair’s is both brilliant and terrifying.
2. Mercedes McCambridge
You may not be familiar with the name but Mercedes McCambridge’s voice is what makes the film so scary. The actress had a glittering film and radio career before she was cast in the Exorcist. In fact, she even won an Oscar for her performance in 1949’s All the Kings Men. She had to work a bit differently when approaching voicing the demon that possessed Regan. To get the terrifying voice she insisted on eating raw eggs, chain-smoking and drinking whiskey through the recording process. Director William Friedkin also had her tied to a chair to recreate that feeling of a demon being restrained in a body. McCambridge ended up delivering a vocal performance that still sounds terrifying to this day. That’s no mean feat.
3. The make-up
The image of Linda Blair covered in the demon make-up is synonymous with the film. What’s amazing is that it still looks genuinely scary all these years on. That can’t be said of all horror films of this vintage. The Exorcist pushed the boundaries of horror in film in many ways, but particularly in special effects helping it to be the scariest ever. Legendary make-up artist Dick Smith was the man in charge of the effects. Not only did he do Linda Blair’s demon make-up, but he was also in charge of the vomit scene and the iconic head spin. These are moments in the film that genuinely haven’t aged. I don’t think any amount of CGI could recreate that real horror. Smith should also get credit for making Max Von Sydow age thirty years without it being obvious. A real genius and trailblazer for special effects.
4. William Friedkin
The man responsible for directing the movie was William Friedkin. He already had the experience of making controversial films. 1971’s The French Connection is still talked about today as one of the greatest action thriller films. Although it had its critics because of the violence. Friedkin certainly put the cast on The Exorcist through the mill. His unconventional style did bring the best out of the actors. He fired off a shotgun on set loaded with blanks and slapped actors before rolling the cameras. All with the aim of getting real and emotive performances from them. He also employed the same documentary style of filmmaking that he used in The French Connection. It works because you feel like you’re watching a real event that you shouldn’t be watching. That element makes it even more creepy and unsettling.
5. The atmosphere
I’ve already mentioned the documentary style of filmmaking that makes this film so raw. Add into the mix the brilliant lighting and camera work, and it’s even more spooky. The pacing of the film is also done to perfection. It builds at just the right speed to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s also a fair chunk into the film where Regan starts getting possessed, so you have a good wedge of tension building first. The musical score throughout the film is also haunting. Friedkin actually used modern classical compositions for the scene breaks, and they work seamlessly. The direction, cinematography and music all combine to create an uneasy atmosphere.
6. The final exorcism
It all builds to this. All the tension and all the scares build to the final exorcism. Again, credit goes to Friedkin for creating a haunting atmosphere in the bedroom. All the actors do an amazing job of pulling off a genuinely scary exorcism. The crew refrigerated the room so you can see everyone’s breath, including the moment when Regan’s head spins around. It’s all about the small details. When Regan levitates from the bed, it’s all real. No CGI, but clever mechanicals. The look on the actors faces is real terror, showing that this scene was executed to perfection.
7. Pushing boundaries
Remember that this came out in 1973. It was a different time with different views on what was acceptable. The Exorcist took every boundary and tore it to shreds. The lines that came out of possessed Regan’s mouth are shocking today, let alone in 1973. Not to mention the crucifix and urinating scenes. As was mentioned earlier, techniques were actually invented and pioneered to make this film unlike anything else before it.
8. The legacy
It’s often quoted as the greatest film ever made, and it’s hard to argue with that. The Exorcist is certainly the scariest film. The way they devised effects, combined with the cinematography and direction, set the benchmark. It’s interesting that all the sequels were critical failures, showing that the original can’t be beaten. Critics all over the world still quote it as their favourite movie, although don’t call it a horror. Writer William Peter Blatty hates the term, preferring psychological thriller. It certainly sits in that camp too. People may have fainted and thrown up at the initial release, but it still holds up today. Nothing comes close to recreating that terrifying realism that you feel whilst watching it. The imagery will stay with you forever, as will the dialogue.
Just don’t watch it alone!
That was eight reasons why The Exorcist Is still the scariest film ever made. Do you agree? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.
Read about what went wrong with A Nightmare on Elm Street HERE.
Read IMDB information on The Exorcist HERE.
No Time To Die – Review
No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.
I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.
A step up?
This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.
That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.
The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.
Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.
There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.
Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.
The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.
Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.
It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.
I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.
Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.
It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10
Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.
Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.
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