Growing up, my parents forbade me to even consider watching movies like Rosemary's Baby or The Exorcist, and I didn't really put up too much of a fight, because I was scared of everything as a child. I hated Halloween, I would cry if my parents turned out my nightlight, and most importantly, I slept with my blankets covering my neck because I was afraid a vampire was going to come in through my window and suck my blood. My parents always told me that if you brought evil into your life, that it would stay there -- hence why we got the house blessed regularly, why I was dragged to church every Sunday, and why I was somewhat censored via film as a child. Ha. It's really quite funny how I turned out in the long run.
But minus the brief flashback, I was still always afraid to watch The Exorcist because I don't really play around with demonic possession. Only recently did I watch An American Haunting because when I originally went to see it in theaters, and saw the cross fly off the wall, I ran out of there. So I was determined to face my fears, step by step, so first I read Rosemary's Baby, then moved on to An American Haunting, and slowly became okay with the idea of serious evil staring me in the face. Heck, I even rented the films and watched them too! But for some reason, I never quite got around to watching The Exorcist because I truly felt that it would ruin my life if I saw it. So naturally, my teacher and mentor, Dr. Mike Arnzen, put it on our Literary Criticism syllabus this semester (he always said he would get me to watch it before I graduated)!
I was a little apprehensive going into class because I wasn't sure how I was going to react to the film. Growing up Catholic, I felt like I was going to catch on fire the minute something bad happened, but to my surprise, I actually liked the film, and slept peacefully that night. I think the idea of the film really scared me, but the actual film didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Mind you, I don't think I want to watch Linda Blair crab walk down the steps too often -- but I can definitely see why the movie is a classic horror film... and yes, I think all horror fans should be required to watch this movie... even if it takes them 22 years like myself.
Viewer Response Criticism:
I have to admit that I enjoyed watching the progression of Regan's condition (if that's what you want to call it). I thought that it was kind of neat how it started out very subtlety, with her having trouble sleeping, the bed shaking, etc. and then moved on to her shouting obscenities at the doctors. However, I think that it took the mom a little while to realize that this wasn't a medical condition, especially when it was bluntly staring her in the face. I mean, no matter what religion you are, everyone knows about possession, and if I walked into my child's room and things were floating everywhere, she was talking in a deep, creepy voice, and was floating on the bed, I would think one of two things were happening: (1) if she was 13 that maybe she was turning into a witch, because that's what happened to Sabrina or (2) that she was clearly possessed by Satan. Mind you, I'm sure that the whole 'this isn't possible' sentence ran through her mind a couple times, but I have a hard time buying it because I've never heard of a nerve disorder that changes your face, your voice, and mutilates your body with scratches and scars.
*Side note: I thought that it was REALLY funny how that when the bed was first shaking that the mom thought that she could stop it by jumping on the bed with her, ha!
The transformation of the demon taking over her body was most intriguing to me (partly because I believe stuff like that can actually happen) and I thought that it was ironic that the possession didn't follow the formalities of a typical possession in accordance to the Catholic church: for example, Regan wallowed in pain when Karras through the tap water (that he said was holy water) on her, and then when he asked her to speak Latin, he later found out that it was English in reverse. To be, regardless if the language was backwards or not, not normal person knows how to do that, and that enough would have been more than enough to convince me. Plus when you take into consideration that Regan knew that a priest was coming, and that his mother had recently passed...it's kind of hard to chalk that all up to coincidence.
What happens when you're possessed:
I thought the things Regan did to herself and to others were really creepy, and that the entire crew to the movie did a great job at the effects, the makeup, the sound, etc. I have watched scenes where Linda Blair is talking in her normal voice, and then listened to the sound overs with the demon voice, and frankly, that makes the whole movie in my opinion. When she attacked the hypnotist and grabbed his groin, laughing all the way, I got chills down my arms, and then after watching her penetrate herself with a cross... I was utterly speechless, and still kind of am. The puke scene is naturally a classic, but to me that was more of a gross out feature rather than an attempt to scare me, but when her head spun... that was just classic. There is something so inhumanly evil about a head spinning that no matter how many scary movies you watch... it has to freak you out (even if you don't want to admit it).
On that note, I have to say that the scariest scene (for me) was when Karras opened the door after the first attempt at an exorcism, and saw Regan out of her restraints, sitting in the corner, with the elder priest dead on the ground. I'm a big fan of leaving horror up to the imagination, and by not seeing what actually happened in that room, makes the scene all the more terrifying to me. It's almost as if we can't see it, because it's too horrible to watch, and we'd never understand it. Bravo!
After all, it's a great day for an exorcism!