The Exorcist (1973)

An electrifying story of demonic possession in contemporary America, William Friedkin’s controversial adaptation of a best-selling novel ranks among Hollywood’s most celebrated horror films.

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Introduction

“If movies are, among other things, opportunities for escapism, then The Exorcist is one of the most powerful ever made. Rarely do movies affect us so deeply.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago-Sun Times, 1973

Bringing the ancient rite of exorcism into 1970s Washington, D.C., The Exorcist depicts a 12-year-old girl’s possession by evil spirits, and the heroic attempt of two Jesuit priests to save her, harrowingly witnessed by mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn). Writer/producer William Peter Blatty’s tale – inspired by the documented 1949 exorcism of a Maryland boy – combines elements of spiritual treatise, murder mystery and carnival sideshow.

Director Friedkin treated medical operation scenes and supernatural shocks with hair-raising realism, leaving audiences fainting and vomiting as wholesome Regan (Linda Blair) gradually becomes an obscene, putrefying beast-child given to graphic blasphemies.

A runaway box-office success, The Exorcist garnered ten Oscar nominations. The American Film Institute voted it among America’s three “most thrilling” films ever.

Blatty’s ‘mystery of goodness’ trilogy continued with The Ninth Configuration (1979) and The Exorcist III (1990). Paranormal Activity (2009) offers a similarly unwanted supernatural visitor.

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