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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Exorcist

Seeing as I've reviewed a lot of horror classics this was one of the next ones on the list. Now the advertising claims this is the scariest film ever made, and people have fainted or been ill because of it, which says something about the effect it has on people, but I'll be honest here, I wasn't scared by it. Maybe I've just been desensitized, and maybe I just went in with the wrong mindset, but I didn't find it scary. It had frightening images, had some good tension, and dealt with some big issues well, but on the whole it is just not scary to me, well with that it's still a great movie, so on to the beginning.

Interestingly the first maybe 15 minutes are not set in the main local, but feature an archeological dig in Iraq. This kind of fake out is interesting, but it doesn't add that much to the story or even the characters. The protagonist for this little bit does come into play later, but on the whole I feel it just didn't suit the film. Maybe if it was compressed more, but as it stands I felt it was too long, and didn't really build up any tension, because at that point nothing was going on, I guess there was some fear of the unknown at that point, but with no immediate threat and for that length of time, it simply felt unneeded.

Hell, for the first 45 minutes or so there is nothing strictly supernatural, just a girl acting strange. It is also the tale of a single mother and her child which has some potential, but they actually have quite a loving, happy relationship and even though the mother is out for a lot of the day the child doesn't seem neglected. Then some things go funny, little things like different behavior and the bed moving around, but it indicates something is not quite right, so she goes to some specialists, doctors, and they try to explain what is happening. Unfortunately they also run some tests on her, and when the mother winces when they say they have to run tests the audience winces as well, because the imagery is just so unpleasant, especially because it's happening to a little girl.
Actually one of the more pleasant parts shown
The whole film is full of this unpleasant imagery, but in a different way than something like A Clockwork Orange, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Because it takes the time at the beginning to establish the character's regular lives the events that happen to them matter so much more. That is what makes it more horrible, because we understand the girl is just a regular kid, the things that happen to her are beyond terrible, and at the end when she screams for her mom, over and over, we feel for her because of all that she's been through and all the pain that her mom has been through. I not only feel sorry for the kid but also the actor, who had to perform some of these terrible things. The demon masturbates with a crucifix until blood comes out. It is not a pleasant film.

But onto other elements of the film there is the priest character, a member of the faith who is losing his own. He is actually quite unwilling to perform an exorcism at first, because he believes they are an outdated practice from the "16th century" which is mostly true. He's a psychiatrist priest and tries to find rational explanations for many things, having lost his faith because of his mom's sickness, and been driven very low after she dies. Really by the end of the film he has little left, then he dies. At least he dies a hero of sorts, and that is quite probably enough for him, because he saved a girls life, someone with a future ahead of her, unlike him who regretted his decision not to become a wealthy doctor all his life, and was even chastised about it by his mother and uncle. I suppose there's some irony in it, he can't pay for his mother's treatment because he chose the godly path. Or maybe it just sucks a lot, either way.

So with these tragic characters who wins in this film? Well the mother and daughter make it out okay, though no one else does, and while they don't really come out of the situation better, with the mother emotionally scarred and in all likelihood the daughter suppressing her emotions immensely so she doesn't just crack, at least they're alive. It's a happier ending than Chinatown. So I'll spoil the ending, the two priests who go to exorcise the girl both die, with one killed by the girl and the other absorbing the demon before throwing himself out the window to commit suicide. And everyone lived happily ever after. Until the sequels. But fuck them.
Fuck 'em.
One interesting thing about the film is all the rumors and incidents abounding around it. First there were a few issues on set, with some of the wires actually injuring both the daughter and the mother, the mother with some major spinal damage which has plagued her for her whole life, and the daughter just a minor injury. Actually the mother's screams of pain when thrown against the wall? Real. Kind of a scary thought. A number of people related to the film also died soon after or during the filming of it, so there's that, but honestly on any big production stuff like that is bound to happen, though a number I heard, 9, is certainly more than the average. There's also the fact that they brought in priests to bless the set periodically, and even asked for an exorcism on the set because of some of the crew's fears, but were not granted one.

Overall I guess it is a well put together film that strings along the horror really well, especially some of the earlier twinges of it. The much smaller incidents were actually more effective, I felt, than the climax because the hints still allowed that unknown factor which drives so much of the base fear. It was just a flash here and there of a scary face or whatever that foreshadowed what was to come. They weren't jump scares either, not like those screamer email things, more just subliminal messaging type stuff, blink and you miss it. These instances really early on, as well as some stuff right around the hour mark, including brief flashes of the demon before revolving back to Linda Blair work really well, and are actually some of the more horrific parts of the film, as opposed to the vomiting bile and floating in mid air.

The film is worth a watch, but don't expect to be terrified, or even that scared, just maybe a bit uncomfortable with some of the scenes, which I guess is what they were going for somewhat. Enjoy it for what it is, and enjoy the effects, they were really well done. Also don't make the same mistake I did and watch the extended edition, it came out around 2000 and adds an extra couple minutes onto the ending which really lessen the impact. I wondered why the end felt so bloated, and that was the reason, director's cuts are not always better guys, editors are there for a reason. Also when I said there was nothing in the film that scared me I lied. The face of of evil below is genuinely scary.
This but fucking everywhere

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