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8 Reasons Why The Exorcist Is Still The Scariest Film Ever Made

Aaron Phillips



The Exorcist image
Warner Bros.

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.

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Movie News

The 9 Greatest Spoof Movies Ever

Aaron Phillips



This is Spinal Tap image
Embassy Pictures

There have been so many great spoof movies over the past four decades. So, sit back and buckle up as we countdown the nine greatest spoof movies of all time. And “don’t call me Shirley”.

9. Team America: World Police

Ok, so it’s all-puppet action as opposed to real-life actors, but it’s still up there. Written by the guys behind South Park, it parodies an American counter-terrorism force as they take on global terrorists. As you would expect, there are some cracking scenes throughout the movie. Kim Jong-il singing about being “so roney, so roney” is a highlight that isn’t easily forgotten. You also have to feel sorry for poor old Matt Damon. Although he’s had a glittering film career it’s still hard not to say “Matt Damon” in that monotone way every time you see him on screen. According to writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Damon’s puppet looked so vacant that they decided to make his character only able to say his name. Poor Matt. Add in some fantastic one-liners, over-the-top violence and sex scenes with puppets, you have a great film that will make you laugh, and cringe.

8. Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks is the king of spoof and parody. He’s directed and written many a great spoof over the years, but Blazing Saddles was only his third movie in the director’s chair. This 1974 offering takes the proverbial from all the great western movies from the 40s and 50s. The film throws joke after joke at you, along with anachronisms aplenty. Lead actors Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little also deliver comedic gold performances that help make this film great. Brooks also does a clever job of dealing with racism throughout the movie; something that hadn’t really been done before. One of those moments is where Wilder and Little confront two Klan characters, before stealing their white gowns. Clever, and poignant. It’s also interesting to note that execs wanted to pull the plug before release, but soon realised they got it wrong. It was a financial success and has firmly sealed its place in history as an iconic piece of filmmaking. Not only that, but it’s also still rated very highly on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb today. Just goes to show that a classic stands the test of time.

7. Spaceballs

Yep, our old friend Mel Brooks features again in the director’s chair. This time he delves into the world of sci-fi; more specifically, Star Wars. Although it only made a small profit at the time, it’s gone on to become a cult classic and holds a fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The key to its success is it’s genuinely funny. The jokes are good enough to make you belly laugh. And the characters are so close to those on Star Wars, it’s amazing George Lucas gave his blessing for it to be made at all. He even went a step further and sent Mel Brooks a note to say he almost fell apart laughing through it. Praise indeed. Brooks’ other golden touch was casting Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet. I think you’ll struggle to find a funnier bad guy. There are also rumours of a sequel, predicted in the film itself as ‘The search for more Money’, although nothing has been greenlit at the moment. We live in hope.

6. Scary Movie

Ok, so there have been five films in the Scary Movie franchise but the first one from 2000 makes our list of spoof movies. Written by Shawn and Marlon Wayans and directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans, it’s definitely a family affair. Although later films parody a wide range of films, this one heavily relies on Scream, and I Know What You Did Last Summer. This works in the film’s favour as you don’t spend the entire movie wondering what film they’re parodying for each joke. You know that Ghostface from Scream is going to feature a lot. And he does. The scene where he gets stoned with a bunch of guys and prank calls people is still funny today. The later films just feel like a collection of forced jokes as they ran out of horror movies to parody. Although it received mixed reviews, it made a monumental profit at the box office.

5. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad

No spoof movies list would be complete without at least one that features the brilliant Leslie Nielson. The Naked Gun, released in 1988, was based on the short-lived TV series from 1982. Created by the legend of deadpan comedy David Zucker, it follows Lt Frank Drebin on his escapades. The original Police Squad series was a spoof of 60s police dramas; particularly M Squad, and The Naked Gun follows the same theme. Plus, it ends with one of the best death scenes in film history with Nielson waving his arms and calmly addressing the crowd with “nothing to see here”. With superb writing and acting, The Naked Gun was released to critical acclaim. It also made a healthy profit at the box office and is often listed as one the greatest comedy films ever made.

4. Hot Shots!

Released in 1991 and directed by Jim Abrahams, Hot Shots! keeps things simple by purely being a spoof of Top Gun. And a very good one it is too. Not only is the writing funny and sharp, but it also has a fantastic cast. Playing the lead roles are Charlie Sheen and Cary Elwes as the two feuding pilots. Both actors are masters of comedic timing and they deliver their lines with razorlike sharpness. The plot revolves around a mission to Iraq, with the added love triangle involving Sheen and Elwes’ characters and a female therapist. This sub-plot lends itself to some genuinely hilarious scenes between the two actors. Credit also has to go to the fantastic Lloyd Bridges. He plays a commander who seems to have had every part of his body replaced due to it being blown off in various battles. His lines in the movie are comedy gold. A great film that hits all its spoof targets with absolute aplomb.

3. Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Written and performed by legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python, Life of Brian had a controversial start. Being a satire of Jesus’ life was always going to cause some angst among some religious communities. In fact, some countries including Ireland and Norway banned it from being shown on release. In some cases that ban the latest decades. Life of Brian is often quoted as one of the greatest comedy films ever made. The writing is as good as you would expect from the Monty Python crew, and the jokes keep coming all the way through. Who can forget the immortal line, “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”. It made a modest box office profit at release but has gone on to earn iconic status. Rotten Tomatoes have it as a 95% certified fresh rating and it’s still raved about today.

2. This is Spinal Tap

This is the film that kicked off a new genre of filmmaking – the mockumentary. Parodying band biopics from the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, it follows fictional band Spinal Tap on their debut American tour. If you’ve ever played in a band – as I do – so much of what’s in this film is true. I can personally attest to getting lost in venues and playing shows where no one turns up. Director Rob Reiner was sending up the pretensions of rock and roll bands and he nailed it. What’s also interesting is the majority of the dialogue throughout the film is improvised. Credit to the actors for pulling off some truly iconic lines. Whether it’s the Stonehenge scene or the legendary amp up to eleven scene, this film has embedded itself in our culture forever. It was only a modest success when it was first released, but its impact has left a lasting impression.

1. Airplane!

Well, we’ve flown; shot and rode our way to number one on our list of spoof movies. Once again, we arrive at a film directed by the dream team of the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams. Loosely based on air disaster movies of the 50s and 60s, it follows a plane whose crew are taken out with a sickness bug. Cue disgraced former pilot Ted Striker to save the day. Released in 1980, this was the film that set Leslie Nielson on the path of spoof comedy. He only has a fairly minor role as the doctor, but he delivers some of the best lines in the movie. ‘I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley’, is iconic. Lloyd Bridges also features as the man on the ground at air traffic control and turns in a chaotic but brilliant performance. Upon release, it made a whopping $168 million dollars at the box office and received critical acclaim. It’s also certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, along with ranking as one of the best on IMDb. It’s one of those films that make you cry with laughter thanks to clever writing and some fantastic performances. A timeless classic.

That’s our list of the nine greatest spoof movies. Did we miss any? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

Read about movie remakes that should never have happened HERE.

Read IMDb information about Airplane! HERE.

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