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.
Jungle Cruise – Review
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt swing in with force in Disney’s new Jungle Cruise. And while the movie has fun callbacks to the Disney Park ride and a clever plot, if this movie is trying to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, it falls short. Here’s our review of Jungle Cruise.
SPOILERS: Warning there are spoilers ahead.
To be honest, I was expecting a much less creative plot from this movie. Following suit with typical adventure movies, I was expecting this film to be a less-funny version of the Jumanji reboot. But the plot has an unexpected emotional centre and a clever twist. And while the film suffers from CGI villain goopiness, it gives the CGI villains actual heart and motivations.
The film centres on Lilly (Emily Blunt), a botanist in search of a healing petal. The petal is said to be able to cure any illness and resides deep in the Amazon Rainforest. She is accompanied by her little brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall) and their hired skipper, Frank (Dwayne Johnson).
But a curse resides around the petal. Spanish conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew went in search of the petal four hundred years ago. The petal can only be found with an arrowhead sacred to the Umbala or Headhunter tribe of the region. When Aguirre and his crew are on the brink of death, the Umbala tribe saves them. But Aguirre betrays them to get his hands on the arrowhead, and the chief of the Umbala tribe curses Aguirre and his party. They can never stray from the river, or the rainforest will take them. For four hundred years, they’ve lain dormant, having strayed too far from the banks of the river. They cannot die.
Now the arrowhead rests with a sexist scientific community. Lilly steals the arrowhead, just before it was set to be sold to Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Joachim works for the German government during the height of World War One. He believes that the petal will not only bring victory to Germany, but will make him a world ruler. (How he thinks it will do that is unclear).
As Lilly, McGregor, and Frank make their way down the Amazon in search of the Petal, Joachim follows and occasionally attacks them in his submarine. Deciding he needs more help, he wakes up Aguirre, now a monster of the Amazon, and his crew. Aguirre, who is now made out of snakes, and his two colleagues, one of which is made out of honey and bees and the other mud and tee frogs, are sent on Lilly’s trail.
What happens next is the usual adventure. White water rapids, a run-in with the Umbala tribe (who become allies), submarine fights, swinging on jungle vines; you name it.
But after a run-in with Aguirre, Lilly learns the truth about Frank. In a plot twist I absolutely did not see coming, it turns out that Frank is actually Francisco, Aguirre’s cartographer. We learn that Aguirre was not looking for the petal for glory or gold, but to save his deeply ill daughter. Aguirre and Francisco grew up together, and they were willing to do anything to save his daughter. But when Aguirre betrays the Umbala tribe, Francisco tries to stop Aguirre. Francisco was also cursed to be unable to leave the riverbank, but Aguirre kept returning to fight and defeat (stab) Francisco.
Tired of constantly getting stabbed, Francisco traps Aguirre in a cave. Letting the Amazon have him and turn him into the monster he is today. Francisco then built a town on the river banks, built a boat in search of the petal, gave up, and now runs river cruises.
While the plot is very complicated, it’s easy enough to follow while watching the film. I will say that the motivations of Joachim are a little hard to follow. But the plot twist with Frank was very clever. It gives a CGI-heavy Aguirre a human heart. Now all he wants to do is break the curse and be allowed to die. To do so he needs a petal. The plot in and of itself was much more clever than I expected.
Characters and performances
One character that pleasantly surprised me was McGregor. At first, I thought he was merely queer-coded. He definitely fell into some gay stereotypes, but I thought that was all it was going to be. A guy who was subtly a little queer. But, when Frank asks him why follows Lilly, even through a jungle, he gives a surprisingly candid answer. He explains to Frank that he is gay and that Lilly is the only one who supports him.
When the world turned his back on him, she stood with him, and for that, he would “follow her into a volcano.” This is the first time I can remember that a Disney character was very, clearly openly gay. Disney has had about a dozen “first gay characters,” but all of them have been off to the side. None of them has stated their sexuality or been open about it. McGregor not only states it outright but is not ashamed of it and it is not his only character trait. He becomes brave and capable and is a good friend to both Frank and Lilly. It was really surprising to see good representation from Disney in this film.
Emily Blunt also gives a wonderful performance (as she always does). She’s headstrong and stubborn, but kind. The sexism was a little on the nose, with a tired bit about how she wears pants, but she was delightful.
And Dwayne Johnson was… okay. He plays the exact same character in every movie he’s in. And while his performance was good in this movie, I can’t help but think that another actor could have done better. He and Emily Blunt have a romance in this movie, but they have absolutely no chemistry. It was hard to believe their romance. I think another actor could have added a little more to Frank’s character. Frank is an interesting character, and another actor could have done more with him. This movie might have been better without Dwayne Johnson.
This movie also might have been better without Joachim. His motivations were really hard to follow. At the end of the day, he was just another stereotype of a German general who only complicated the plot.
It feels as though Jungle Cruise might be Disney’s attempt to re-make the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I can’t see this film becoming a franchise. The first Pirates movie is masterful, with amazing rewatchability. But Jungle Cruise, while fun, is forgettable. It’s not a movie I see myself rewatching anytime soon. If this is an attempt to create a new franchise for Disney; it falls short. But, the film was fun to watch and was a good movie theatre experience.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 5/10
Thank you for reading our review of Jungle Cruise. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Read our review of Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part Two HERE.
Read IMDB information about Jungle Cruise HERE.
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