The Unbearable Frightness of Being | Patrick Coffin | CWR
The Exorcist turns 40.
The shaking bed. The frantic mother. The faithless priest duking it out with the demon upstairs—and oh, that spinning head. These and other iconic images from The Exorcist(1973) are burned into our collective movie-going consciousness.
The film is reckoned invariably as the scariest film ever made and the first of the horror genre to be nominated for Best Picture. Directed by William Friedkin based on William Peter Blatty’s adaptation of his own hair-raising novel, The Exorcist:
• Drew 10 Academy Award nominations and took home two: Best Sound and Best Screenplay based on Material From Another Medium).
• Opened the day after Christmas 1973 to mixed reviews and long, snaking queues to became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, hauling in over $441 million worldwide.
• Laid intelligence into a genre that, with the possible exception ofRosemary’s Baby (1968), had drifted into the campier territory of Britain’s Hammer Films and low budget American sci-fi B movies.
• Kick started the Evil Kid sub-genre, typified by The Omen(s), the Child’s Play/Chucky franchise, Children of the Corn(s), Pet Sematary, and Orphan.
There have been many subsequent attempts at imitation, but none really compares toThe Exorcist, the Platonic ideal of them all. How to account for the enduring popularity of a film that features blasphemy, profanity, and scenes that still shock viewers 40 years later?