Reviewed by: Andrew Hager
Exorcism is a debatable topic, even among Christians. Some feel that it is a real, God-powered battle against demons. Others see it as myth, urban legend for Catholics. In 1973, director William Friedkin (“The French Connection”) brought to the screen an adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel, “The Exorcist.” Surprisingly, unlike many Hollywood productions, this film does not seek to disprove Christian beliefs—it supports them.
Regan (Linda Blair) is a small child with a terrible problem. She’s been acting very strangely lately, predicting the death of her mom’s friend and urinating in public. Doctors cannot find anything medically wrong with her. In desperation, her mother turns to a priest for help. What follows is a terrifying account of an exorcism, as the priest battles the demons inside the child.
Blatty, who adapted the screenplay from his novel, based his story on a real incident which took place in Georgetown, Maryland, in 1949. The true-life basis of the film lends it an extra credibility not found in recent films like “Stigmata” or “The First Power”. According to a documentary made by the BBC, nine people died mysteriously during the film’s making. One of the producers noted that “there was a feeling that we were dealing with something we shouldn’t be dealing with.” Director Friedkin says that “I feel that you’ll get out of “The Exorcist” what you bring to it… If you want an affirmation of faith, it’s there…”
That said, this is not a film for children or the squeamish. There is profanity and the use of Christ’s name in vain. More negatively, there are numerous accounts of demonic activity, including Regan masturbating with a crucifix. While I have no doubts that a demon could do this, it remains shocking and may drown out some of the God-triumphing-over-Satan aspects which dominate the film’s core.
Personally, I advise that you think long and hard before viewing this. This is a story which may need to be told, but not to everyone.
Year of Release—1973