Pazuzu attempts, one last time, to destroy Regan a.k.a Angela Rance and her family, too. Meanwhile, Pope Sebastian's arriving and his enemies are legion.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 9: “162”
Directed by Bill Johnson
Written by Franklin Jin Rho & Jeremy Slater
* For a review of Chapter Eight, “The Griefbearers” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Ten, “Three Rooms” – click here
With Chris MacNeil dead, where does the Rance family go from here? Angela (Geena Davis) tells her bullshit story while Pazuzu rules from inside. Henry (Alan Ruck) and Kat (Brianne Howey) don’t know much what to make of it, but it’s clear the demon works hard to cover things up. More than that, Superintendent Jaffey (Tim Hopper), possessed himself, is present. The demon in him recognises the one in Regan.
Then we see a flash to Regan, watching her daughter about to have her neck snapped. And time freezes: “Ah, together again,” says the Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney) as they become one after so long.
So what will we see from the demons, working in legion as a whole entity? Very interesting, and very troublesome.
Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is back at home. All the people are gone, only a memorial to Chris, discarded signs, candles remain. But we’re constantly seeing Regan become more ingratiated to the demon’s personality.
In other news, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) is forever on the case. He still has the help of Cherry and Lester Rego (Keira Naughton & Ken Marks). They’ve got a line on a bit of information concerning Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). Now they’re worried that if Bennett’s in trouble, which he is, then they may know about everything – Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan), the Rances, maybe even Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) and his involvement with it all. Speaking of Tomas, he’s having dinner with the Rance family, who are getting over the loss of their grandmother and the tumultuous times they’ve gone through as of late. At the table, Casey is incredibly quiet; her eyes speak volumes. And Kat, she notices the nonchalant way in which Angela tosses of her own mother’s death. Eerie few moments. Plus a little later Henry talks about hearing a lot of voices, murmuring in his head; the voices all mash together and repeat the number 162.
The Regos are out taking pictures of Brother Simon and they might’ve been spotted. Although the old priest heads on in to meet with the Superintendent of Police, Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), and others. Then? Pazuzu arrives. They talk of Father Merrin, plans for Pope Sebastian, so on. Looks as if Pazuzu is much more powerful than any of the other demons present. So powerful, he makes just about every one of them kneel; well, grovel to the floor on their bellies. He makes Simon kiss Regan’s shoes, too. They’re all in line finally, bearing down on the “sanctimonious whores” they’ll target next.
Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) talks with Father Tomas. He offers up a bigger position elsewhere, as well as the fact they’re closing St. Anthony’s, where Tomas has his parish. And it’s through this conversation the young priest tries divulging his recent sins. However, the bishop doesn’t exactly care too much. Most of all he wants Tomas and his prying ways out of their hair in Chicago. No matter if the priest has been unfaithful to his vows.
The ever sly Father Marcus is sneaking around in the back of the church while Tomas is out chatting. They discuss the pending transfer. But Marcus knows more. He advises “mind your back” and to keep an eye out. Then he’s called away by the Regos.
Casey’s recovering, although her mind weighs heavy. She still doesn’t seem herself even if Kat tries to treat her normally. She’s feeling guilty because of the dead paramedics, regardless if it was actually her doing the killing. “You survived,” Kat tries assuring her. Sometimes, though, that isn’t enough.
When Marcus gets back to see Cherry and Lester, he finds them dead. Bullet holes in them. He says a prayer over their corpses, searching the place for a few bullets to take with the gun. At the same time Mother Bernadette receives a visit from Angela: “We should‘ve killed you when we had a chance,” the nun says plainly. Thus follows the death of Bernadette, and who the hell knows what’ll happen to the other sisters who show up immediately afterwards. When Marcus gets there, he finds a massacre (note: a great instance of what sometimes we DON’T see is scarier than what we DO see).
At home, Angela talks to Casey about her possession. “At a certain point you asked for it,” mom tells her daughter. That’s so… gross. Pazuzu tries forming a bond between mother and daughter, though I can’t help feel like Casey’s going to start noticing there is something not quite right with mama.
There’s a big ceremony going on, Superintendent Jaffey, Mrs. Walters, Bishop Egan, Father Tomas, and all sorts of guests are present. Maria takes the stage to give a little speech for everybody. She speaks of Pope Sebastian and his ray of light amongst the darkness in Chicago. Everyone’s quite excited. Some, obviously, much more than others.
In bed, Angela and Henry get close for the first time in so long. Then she starts choking him, rough. To the point it isn’t remotely fun. I think, finally, Henry’s getting that something is wrong with his wife, more than ever. I worry for him, as well. Then there’s Casey – she witnesses Pazuzu in her mother, running hands all over Kat’s body in a sexual way. HOLY SHIT, that’s disturbing. The demon wants what he wants, and that’s it. Casey can see what’s happening. She knows.
Brother Simon sits in his suite, drinking, eating oysters and other tasty treats. Definitely not what you’d expect of a holy man; he sucks caviar from his fingers and laps it all up. Before Father Marcus barges his way inside, kicking the shit out of the old demon before filling a bathtub with water and a bit of sacramental salt. He dunks the demon’s face in, asking for more info. Except Brother Simon tells him about how the coming death of the Pope is inevitable: “Rome‘s shame, come full circle.”
Marcus is now at the mercy of Brother Simon – he’s got the bowl of ash out, the vocare pulvere dish. Is he going to try possessing Marcus?!?
Under cover of night, Casey gets Kat and her father ready. They’re leaving without Angela; the demon Pazuzu has her. But the demon wants a family meeting. Nobody’s going anywhere. Pazuzu and the girl formerly known as Regan have become fully integrated. Permanent possession. The demon then talks about their history, how God cast them all down after creating Man, et cetera. Turns out the demon is also going to have to hurt one of the family, to make sure they’re punished properly. And it’s Casey. Pazuzu chokes her until Tomas arrives: “Get the hell away from her.”
Oh shit! Another gorgeous, disturbing, compelling episode. As it’s been from the beginning.
The finale is next. Wow, I hope they give us another season. We need it. Last episode is titled “Three Rooms” and I’m not even able to imagine where it’ll take us. Hopefully FOX will renew the show, if not I’m sure Slater & Co. have a fun ending for the season to take us away.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 7: “Father of Lies”
Directed by Tinge Krishnan
Written by Charise Castro Smith
* For a review of Chapter Six, “Star of the Morning” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Eight, “The Griefbearers” – click here
Possession has gripped Chicago.
At a Roman Catholic Church service, Angela and Henry Rance (Geena Davis & Alan Ruck), their daughter Kat (Brianne Howey), many people are gathered. Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is leading everyone, praying for Casey Rance’s (Hannah Kasulka) safe return to her family.
Nine days prior, Father Tomas rushes Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) and a horrifically unwell Casey to see Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan). The girl is obviously close to being “integrated” with the demon inside her. All the same, it looks like Fathers Marcus and Tomas are on the same page. Right now they have to keep Pazuzu at bay. He wants revenge.
The media circus surrounding the Rance family and grandma Chris MacNeil (Sharon Gless). Sounds as if Chris is taking her role in the family more seriously, regretting the past and what she did to their family using Regan’s plight for financial gain.
Bernadette worries if they can’t beat the demon they’ll be unleashing an “ancient violence into the world.” For his part, Marcus has more faith than anybody. Ironic, no? The man who’s been excommunicated wants to fight the forces against God the most.
With the creepiness going on in the upper echelons involving Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the police superintendent, the priest with whom Father Tomas meets, there’s no telling what might happen next. One thing is made perfectly clear: Marcus is an enemy of the Church. That means many things at the moment.
The Rances and Chris give an interview concerning Casey. Naturally, the past tries to emerge. Right away things go sour. The interviewer goes hard at them until Angela and Henry walk out. Instead of solely trying to find the girl, the media wants to dig up dirt first. Typical of certain news outlets. At the same time Casey’s being exorcised, or at least the trio of exorcists – Tomas, Marcus, and Bernadette – try doing the job. Tomas walks away with a bite, and Pazuzu smiles from inside Casey; almost loving the exorcism. So damn creepy. Moreover, Marcus feels responsible now for Casey, after the end of last episode when he nearly expelled the demon for good.
Outside of the Rance house people are holding up signs, some hateful Westboro Baptist Church-like and other more Gothic. A woman confronts Angela about Casey having killed her husband in the ambulance, calling her daughter “demon girl.” Henry quickly rushes his wife back inside.
Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) has to deal with all those crooked weirdos, including one of the ring leaders Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). He’s come up with a bit of dirt on the finances of those involved with the Papal Planning Committee. Oh, this is all too ominous! I’m worried for Bennett. I like him a lot, and worry his time is drawing to a close. Hopefully he proves me wrong. Seeing all those kooks around him is chilling.
At the house, Chris mentions to Father Tomas he reminds her of one of the priests who helped Regan; she’s talking about Father Damien Karras. Well, Tomas does his best in comforting Angela and her family. He has “faith,” but Angela particularly isn’t convinced. Having a demon come back for her four decades after the first possession, now for her daughter? I’d probably not be too hopeful about God, either. Meanwhile, Casey’s body is withering. And that nasty bastard Pazuzu, he’s hiding. There are literal maggots eating the girl alive, worming through her flesh. If they can’t draw Pazuzu out, they can’t finish the exorcism. If they can’t finish the exorcism, the girl dies. Even worse Bernadette feels that the case is a lost cause, and that perhaps Marcus holding on so dearly, fighting so hard might no longer be about her; is he fighting because of his own past, or does he still genuinely believe? I’m inclined to say the latter.
Angela and her mother talk seriously for the first time in a long while. Chris tells her daughter she’s a good mother. Even the girl formerly known as Regan admits that growing up in the lap of celebrity wasn’t always so bad. Further than that, she understands now how hard it had to be for Chris to watch her be possessed, virtually helpless.
Back with Casey, Father Marcus tries using love to cast out the “Star of the Morning” (but isn’t the demon itself Pazuzu from when it possessed Regan? Little confused on that one now) and make it understand it is forgiven. The girl comes to a moment, crying: “No more.”
The ever diligent Father Bennett finds himself in a precarious position, snooping around looking for clues. He locates the burned ashes of the organs used in the Ceremony of Ash, Vocare Pulvere. He’s also being watched, by one of the possessed homeless men. When he comes across a room full of dead, bloodied corpses, some of the possessed men attack. He manages to fend them off, then starts killing demons like a bad motherfucker. YES! YES! This must continue. We need more Bennett in our lives.
Tomas is slipping further from the faith, as he’s in bed with Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) and shirking those vows he took; not that I agree with his vows, but still. Although it’s not exactly as if he’s easily doing it, the whole situation evidently weighs heavy on his soul. She can tell. We can tell. He winds up going out to try getting something for his bite and gets punched in the face by a pharmacy customer. Maria bails him out. That ain’t good. She acts as a shoulder to cry on. But maybe, after being passed over for demonic possession, she’ll have a change of heart? Yeah, right.
Things at the Rance house are rough. Angela’s breaking down. She asks to have Father Tomas come over, her mind is frantic, her speech, too. She believes that Casey’s dead. “Part of me is gone,” she tells Tomas, her husband, Kat, Chris, each of them watching with a deep sadness in their eyes.
Marcus is about to administer a cup of belladonna tea to Casey when he realises “This is his design; I will not interfere.” He won’t give up on her. His faith is so pure that there’s no stopping him. And likewise, Angela isn’t giving up. Tomas brings her in and from the moment Pazuzu senses her, he comes alive once more. He is drawn out.
“A sow,” the demon says looking at the woman he once knew as Regan. It is time for a brutal battle between the one who got away and that ancient evil, Pazuzu.
What a fascinating and well-written episode! Another of my favourites, I think. There is so much depth to these characters, I can’t even imagine where to begin on that. Also, side note: the score is fucking incredible, that piano riff we hear that plays off the intro song. I mean, I honestly feel this series surprised me, many of us. It is leagues better than I ever hoped.
Let’s get geared up for Chapter Eight “The Griefbearers” next week. And how will the showdown between the demon and Regan MacNeil go? I wonder.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 6: “Star of the Morning”
Directed by Jennifer Phang
Written by Laura Marks
* For a review of Chapter Five, “Through My Most Grievous Fault” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Seven, “Father of Lies” – click here
After the longest break of my god damn life, The Exorcist returns after dropping the bomb that Angela Rance (Geena Davis) is in fact Regan MacNeil. We start on an old television show where young Regan and her mother are being interviewed about the whole Georgetown incident. She doesn’t remember much, though her mother insists she does. “The demon girl” obviously had to do some distancing to get away from her past since that show. I find it fascinating they did this, plot-wise, as the whole thing opens up a lot of great paths the show can take from here. Dig it wholeheartedly.
Chris MacNeil (Sharon Gless) has shown up on the Rances doorstep. She and Kat (Brianne Howey) try to do a little bonding, sort of, while Angela is decidedly unhappy about her mother showing up. Unfortunately there’s the whole cover-up asect to Angela’s marriage, Henry (Alan Ruck), very appropriately, is upset about what his wife has hidden. Can he blame her? She was exorcised, she saw several people die – albeit while possessed – and went through a terrifying ordeal. It’s sad that she couldn’t tell her husband at some point, however, I don’t blame her.
Everyone’s clearly worried for Casey (Hannah Kasulka), who is god knows where and doing who knows what. Right now Henry wants to take his chances with the mother-in-law. All to find his daughter; she’s now on the lam and people are left dead in her wake. I’m even more worried for Angela right now. Her old life is clawing back. She even hears strange noises in her head for just a moment. All the same, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) feels pissed about not having all the facts before going into Casey’s room. “Possession is like a virus,” he tells the scared mother and makes painfully obvious what the consequences are if they can’t find her daughter in time. “Integration” – the next step – is a permanent destruction of the soul, when the girl’s soul will come inextricably linked to that of the demon. Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) feels that his counterpart is a bit harsh. They simply don’t have enough time to piss about.
A press conference is called, the Rances in attendance with famous grandma in tow. They’re the centre of a publicity carnival. But not everyone is so concerned with the Rance family. People were murdered – butchered, and brutally – recently and nobody seems too quick to seek out the answer on that. Meanwhile, we see some of the dastardly, wholesale nastiness of those that killed these victims, using the organs taken for sinister purposes. A woman at the press conference calls out the names of the victims, hoping for justice. Nobody there understands exactly the significance of those murders, not just yet.
The police are curious about Father Marcus, having been arrested after performing the exorcism. They want to shut the whole “possession” story down, so as not to confuse the public. Of course they show Angela and Henry the pictures of what happened during the ambulance ride Casey took. Upstairs, Chris tries to talk with Kat about what happened to her mother, formerly known as Regan. A media circus ensued, partly because Chris needed to keep her career alive. She talks about the Ouija board and “Captain Howdy.” Eerie fucking conversation, to say the least. Kat believes her grandmother is victim blaming a little by attributing it all to Regan not listening about the Ouija being no good, although Chris admits she failed her own daughter ultimately.
Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) and Father Marcus are still getting a bit of help from Cherry and Lester Rego in their quest outside the reaches, and know, of the Church. And in a defiant statement, as per his bad ass usual, Marcus tells Bennett: “I don‘t care about God‘s will.” At the very same time something terribly ungodly calls Angela over the phone, taunting her about Casey. The demon produces a horrific image for the frantic mother. All a dream. Has Pazuzu returned for Regan?
Then there’s Jessica (Mouzam Makkar), she’s left her husband and found herself a new apartment. A place where there’s no “guilt” and no “shame” for neither she, nor Father Tomas. He still resists, even though he loves her. Deeply, too. His faith has been shaken in so many ways at once it’s likely he doesn’t know where to turn.
Poor Henry’s having a lot of trouble. With his recent head injury there are gaps in his memory. He says what held that together is his wife, his family. Most of what hurts him is the fact Angela couldn’t trust him enough to reveal her former life as Regan MacNeil. There are more problems for Angela, as well. She isn’t happy about her mother returning, dragging the media into their home all over again. “You used me,” Angela yells at Chris. Worse than any of that the coroner calls. They may have Casey.
Simultaneously, a report of wild dogs going mad in a neighbourhood prompts Father Tomas to text Marcus, which sets the renegade priest off to check it out.
At the party Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald) throws for the upcoming papal visit, Father Bennett comes across Dr. John Rexroth (Michael Patrick Thornton), whose talk of angels on Earth draws his attention. Bennett believes what the doctor is actually talking about are demons in our world trying to influence how it works.
At the coroner’s office everyone awaits the news of whether Casey is dead. In go Angela and Henry to make the identification. Gladly, their daughter is still alive. Yet surely in a great deal of existential agony. Finally, Chris and the girl formerly known as Regan embrace. Maybe those wounds can heal. Someday.
The real excitement is in the journey of Father Marcus into the underbelly of the city. He finds a tunnel filled with homeless, possibly possessed individuals. He searches for Casey, calling her name. One woman looks him dead in the eye, repeating: “Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it.” All around him are the signs of evil at work. Then from nowhere Marcus is attacked. He commands them in the name of Christ, which holds them at bay temporarily. Behind him Casey crawls the walls and the floor doing the spider walk her mother did down the stairs all those years ago.
At the Walters party we come to discover that Dr. Rexroth, Maria herself, one of the priests, among others, are in fact working together in order to complete the vocare pulvere ritual. They even have the little bowl of ashes those killers filled with the ashes of the organs they’d stolen. Wow. I didn’t see this coming, at all. “Star of the morning” is a reference to Lucifer, The Morning Star. Brother Simon (Francis Guinan) leads the ceremony.
All of a sudden, HE IS COMING doesn’t only signal the coming of the Pope. And what’s worse is the fact there are so many influential people at that table, including the police superintendent. “Please take me” everyone around the table declares, as the priest at the table blows ashes into the air. It is in fact the superintendent who receives demonic power from the ashes, and something other takes over his body.
Everyone present looks very, very pleased. A delighted, evil laughter rises from the table. Maria doesn’t look particularly happy; she wanted to be chosen. How sad when the devil passes you over.
On the shore near the tunnel Father Marcus locates Casey feasting on a sea bird. He approaches her, reciting Christian incantation. Before the demon attacks him, trying its best to murder the priest. A perfect place, kinda. Marcus uses the water to in effect baptise Casey, releasing the demon. Then she returns, herself once more.
Except she tells Marcus: “He‘s coming back. Help me.”
This was the best episode yet! Creepiest, nastiest, wildest, most intriguing. So much going on. The preview for Chapter Seven “Father of Lies” looks insane. Seems Pazuzu is back for revenge against the girl able to survive his wrath. Excited to see what’s next.
The House of the Devil. 2009. Directed & Written by Ti West.
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace, Heather Robb, Darryl Nau, Brenda Cooney, Danielle Noe, Mary B. McCann, John Speredakos, Lena Dunham, and Graham Reznick. MPI Media Group/Constructovision/RingtheJing Entertainment/Glass Eye Pix. Rated R. 95 minutes.
Ti West is one of the modern horror directors I think you could say is an auteur in his own right. All of his films have a similar feel, maybe all aside from The Sacrament, as in they’re all done on film (again aside from the aforementioned last of his films to come out), they have the full, rich look of movies from the 1970s and 1980s. Not only that, West is great at drawing out the tension of a film to create atmosphere and to setup excellent uses of suspense.
The House of the Devil is no exception. I’d actually seen this before any of his other work before, and loved it so much I went back to see anything else he’d done I could get my hands on. The Roost is a highly underrated indie horror gem, even Trigger Man – an early attempt at shooting digitally – has its merits. Since then he’s done The Sacrament, of which I’m a big fan, and another fun little spooky flick called The Innkeepers. Loves titles starting with The!
With this movie, West throws back to the ’70s/’80s Golden Age of Horror, not deliberately making a period piece but still harkening directly back to that time by use of similar techniques, camerawork, music, and aesthetic filmmakers were in the habit of using. Essentially, The House of the Devil ends up as West’s scary love letter to movies he grew up, the vibe of filmmaking happening at the time which influenced him, as well as he gives us a slow burn horror rooted in the false Satanic Panic especially prevalent during the 1980s. If you don’t like a slower paced film, this won’t be for you at all. If you don’t mind letting a horror build, letting it grow on you, then give it a shot; you will not regret it.
Trying to get out on her own, away from terrible roommate living, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) ends up taking a mysterious job babysitting for Mr/Mrs. Ulman (Tom Noonan & Mary Woronov). Mysterious due to the fact the Ulmans don’t have a child. The job is, in reality, for Mrs. Ulman’s mother who lives with them. After some negotiating, Samantha gets a massive payday all for a single night. Her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) tags along to make sure everything is fine, and though not entirely satisfied she leaves Samantha at the house, almost literally in the middle of nowhere with the Ulmans.
And once they leave, Samantha slowly begins to feel as if something isn’t quite right in the big old house. Not to mention a young man named Victor (AJ Bowen) blasts Megan’s face off just a little ways down the road.
Nobody ever told Samantha babysitting would could be so hard.
There are lots of things to admire about The House of the Devil. While big films often try to go for period looks – such as how Martin Scorsese for instance did the different portions of his Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator according to how films looked at various instances throughout the 20th century – it is’t often an independent movie, horror at that, will try and emulate the particular look of certain decades. West not only shot this on film, but 16mm film, which gives it a great look that was very popular in the 1980s. Other ways West achieves his retro feel is through the zooms, nowadays a technique you’ll mostly see done through use of a dolly shot. Even right at the beginning with the freeze frame on Samantha, music playing, movie title in big block letters; totally ’80s style, through and through. Down to the fact this was the only movie since A History of Violence in 2005 which got released on VHS in one of the clamshell style cases, this is a unique and fun indie horror. So there’s a quaint charm about West’s film I feel gets lost on a lot of people who don’t care about any of that. Should you care? Well, that’s totally subjective. Me, I think there’s a certain artistry involved with all the care that goes into making a movie into more than just a movie, but instead making it become an experience. The House of the Devil, for me, has always been a solid horror while also very much being a horrifying experience all around because of its style.
When Samantha puts her ear close to the door, asking if “everything’s all right in there”, the slow and brief reveal West gives us of the Satanic-like markings, the bloodied corpses on the floor is shocking. It’s not shocking like the scene is going to make you gasp, or lose your breath and hide away. This shot and the scene is shocking in that you’re not expecting such blatant nastiness right behind the door. Even how slow West shows us what’s in the room is incredible, as I was expecting something more along the lines of the ‘mother’ in the dark, looking sinister in the corner, or anything close to that. Instead, it’s a pretty ballsy visual, such that West announces at this moment things are definitely going to start getting savage. At some point, anyways. Afterwards there are more moments of horror later like this, and also some key shots of very dreamy imagery in certain scenes. Generally, West strikes a nice balance between these two methods.
When Samantha discovers the full extent of what’s happening in the house (think: drinking blood from a horned skull), the plot takes us into the depths of horror. Mixing subtle creepiness with plenty solid doses of nasty violence, the finale of the film plays out with pumping adrenaline in a sequence washed with blood. In particular, a few shots remind me of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, almost homage-like cuts to a hooded demonic character much like how Friedkin made several subliminal cuts to the Pazuzu demon in his film.
Most of all, I found the atmosphere of the film combined with the characters pretty damn eerie. Such as the Ulman family themselves. First there’s Tom Noonan whose creepiness knows no bounds, never once calling back to his stint as The Tooth Fairy a.k.a Francis Dolarhyde in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, which is an unfair criticism of his acting I often see when he plays in horror movies; here, his character is all its own and he plays it quietly with great nuance. Then Mary Woronov does a spectacularly unsettling job with the character of Mrs. Ulman, even in the brief time she’s actually onscreen. Of course, Jocelin Donahue as Samantha is a perfect fit – she’s an ongoing yet at times quiet sort of person, but there’s a strength Donahue gives the character which is really great and adds something to the story. Throw in AJ Bowen and Greta Gerwig as interesting, smaller characters, and I’ve got to say West’s screenplay is a tight one with plenty of intrigue and none of the heavy, sagging exposition of other horror movies trying to spell every last thing out through dialogue.
This is a great film, 5 stars in my book. Ti West could’ve done a typical slasher with this, however, he opts to draw on his biggest influences from the ’70s/’80s and some of the real life yet fake claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse from decades ago, crafting a unique indie horror experience. Great and classic sensibilities show in the way West handles his directorial duties, as well as his writing. I can’t say anything else except for: watch it. Maybe you won’t dig it. But those who are into a slow burn, atmospheric type of horror, it’s full of that and it’s only a little over an hour.
Let me know what you think of the movie in the comments below, as long as you can be civil and have a proper talk!
The Exorcist. 1973. Dir. William Friedkin. Written by William Peter Blatty, based on his novel.
Starring Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, and Linda Blair.
Rated 18A. 132 minutes.
★★★★★ (Blu ray release)
By now, everyone has either seen The Exorcist or knows all about it. Simply put, it is the story of a young girl who is possessed by some type of demon; her non-believer mother eventually gives in and realises what she needs is not modern medicine, not psychology, but a Catholic exorcism. This is the plot of the film. From there, the wild bits begin.What I’d like to talk about instead of the plot itself are the effects because on the Blu ray release from Warner Brothers there are tons of amazing special features. The best, and my most favourite, is one called “Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist.” This basically features tons of shots from behind-the-scenes, filmed originally without sound – explained to be because they wanted the extra filming to be inconspicuous to Friedkin who might’ve gotten annoyed had they been dragging more crew around the set than was needed – and over top we get interviews with everyone from Friedkin to Blatty to Blair, to people working on the crew. It’s amazing.
One of the moments I absolutely just died for was when they show two things. First, is a moment where Reagan (Blair) attacks a man. Friedkin wanted a shot following the man all the way down as he fell to the floor, shot tight looking right at his face, as if from Reagan’s POV. This is brilliance right here. Friedkin clearly has an innovative spirit. We watch as they show the contraption they’d built to do just that one shot— it’s the best thing ever. Second, they show a bunch of shots detailing the house set for the film. I should’ve known, from how some of the camerawork goes, the house was a set, open at the top and such, but just to see them doing actual shots going up the stairs with the rig they’d built to get the camera operators up and down in smooth ways. Beautiful, really, to see all the effort that went into making this film so god damn great.Another aspect worthy of note in regards to The Exorcist is the lighting. At one point on the “Raising Hell” documentary, they talk about the use of wires in the bedroom— for pulling people, as well as objects, around the room in certain shots. It looks perfect on film, but to hear Owen Roizman (D.P.) talk about how he had the wires painted in broken formations of black and white so it would make the wire less visible on camera, it’s an absolute treat! These tiny tricks of the trade are really cool to hear from the mouths of those involved in the production.
Later, we get to watch as Roizman talks about all the wire work, including how they dragged all the furniture around in Reagan’s room during those frenetic scenes. Wild. I knew it had to be practical the way they’d accomplished such shots, to actually see it and watch the process is something special. Roizman has a very nostalgic memory of the production, and a lot of his comments, especially concerning a young Linda Blair and her performance/attitude on set, which seems to be remarkable for such a young actress at the time, are great to hear. These features really help give The Exorcist even more appreciation amongst its fans, and genre fans in general.One of my favourite things about DVD and Blu ray is the fact we get commentary on a film while watching it. Probably one of the best things to come along with the advent of these new technologies. William Friedkin’s commentary on The Exorcist is fascinating and pretty damn informative. Even in the first few moments, Friedkin puts to bed any notions people have about the opening scenes not belonging in the film. He explains why it is there, what it means, and I love it, I understood anyways, though it helps to actually have a director of a film say “this is the reason,” and having it match up with what you thought. Just delightful to hear Friedkin talk about his experience filming the opening of the film in Iraq, how he was there without the protection of the U.S government, and telling us about how he enjoyed the Iraqi people and their hospitality. Hearing the director talk over beautifully framed and perfect looking images on a high quality picture of the film is sublime.
The story works on its own, but Friedkin really hammers it home. The acting from both Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn is on point. Burstyn’s one of the greatest actresses ever to grace the screen. Here, she really excels, as a mother who doesn’t believe in religion or any of that stuff yet soon comes to understand the devil has taken hold of her daughter, seeking out the help of priests. Not many could pull of such a horror role. Burstyn’s so wonderfully natural here.
Blair did a fabulous job as a young girl. Incredible to think she was able to do such a role and give the performance she did. On the Blu ray documentary, she talks about how Friedkin would often shelter her from the reality of what she’d be doing onscreen by joking with her. Friedkin himself talks about it, and it seems they really had a cool relationship, a lot like an uncle and niece sort of thing where he coaxed her into some of the scenes by tickling and teasing. You can tell Friedkin works well with actors and actresses just by how Blair, at such a young age then, was able to work with him and give it her all in a tough role. Combined with the effects and the pure intensity of Blatty’s writing, the performances lift The Exorcist above a lot of trashy horror that was coming out in the 1970s and makes it an absolute masterpiece of filmmaking.The Blu ray release is far beyond the state of perfect. So many special features are available here, you’ll take days and days to get through it. “Raising Hell” is absolutely the best of them all, but there is more than just that. You get a real in-depth look behind the making of The Exorcist. I couldn’t believe how much bang for my buck I got when purchasing this, especially seeing as how HMV recently had it there for less than $10 (the ultimate steal of a lifetime if there ever was one!). It is really worth it if you enjoy the film. You get some great inside looks at the make-up effects Dick Smith pulled off; a master of the trade. Those alone are worth the price of the Blu ray, just to see him work at the craft.
Anyone who has yet to see this, go buy a copy now. If you’re a horror fan especially, don’t sleep on this. When I first saw The Exorcist I was about 15 years old. It didn’t really affect me at the time. However, I still enjoyed it a lot. Years later, I revisited the film, and I couldn’t get over it. For days, the story lingered on me like cigarette smoke. I couldn’t shake it. Burstyn and Von Sydow really pulled me in and rocked my world. The performances and the effects, it all got to me. It’s now one of my most treasured Blu rays, as well as one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. Once again, this is a film that has no hype – the hype is very real, in fact.
And if you don’t get a chill running up your spinal fluid into your brain when you hear the repeated line from early in the film, “Father – could ya help an old altar boy?” then you know what? Check your pulse. Because the rest of us are absolutely terrified.