Los Angeles, US, Dec 25 (EFE). – One day after Christmas in 1973, movie theaters were filled with people having panic attacks, others leaving in shock and a few more vomiting and fainting during the premiere of “The Exorcist”.
Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel published a few years earlier, William Friedkin’s film forever changed the horror movie genre, pushing the traditional boundaries of the genre in many ways, including the use of groundbreaking sound effects and subliminal imagery.
The story of Reagan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a 12-year-old girl who experiences demonic possession and a violent exorcism ordered by Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), emerged during a decade of cultural and social change that shaped cinema at a time when audiences were finding sympathy for darker plots, unconventional characters and memorable anti-heroes.
The end of the Vietnam War, counterculture movements, the proliferation of drugs, the mainstreaming of the sex industry, and the Watergate scandal marked the 1970s in the United States.
A golden decade in which films such as “A Clockwork Orange” (Stanley Kubrick), “Serpico” (Sidney Lumet), “The Godfather” (Francis Ford Coppola), “Taxi Driver” (Martin Scorsese) and “Star Wars” (George Lucas), among others, premiered and became must-see cinema classics.
Against this backdrop, “The Exorcist” transgressed in the way it dealt with terror, religion and childhood, and it did so in a context that seemed as everyday and ordinary as the difficulties of a single mother (Ellen Burstyn) raising her daughter.
The explicit scenes of the sweet-faced angelic little girl transfigured by demonic possession, the desecration of Catholic symbols and the use of foul and profane language scandalized members of the Church, who called the film blasphemous.
At the same time, the film rocked the Hollywood Academy, which nominated it for ten Academy Awards, of which it won two, including Best Adapted Screenplay.
Also, the alleged paranormal events that occurred during the filming of the movie, such as a fire in the decorations of Reagan’s house and the deaths of members of the film crew and people close to the protagonists, fueled the horror legend that surrounds the film to this day.
As a result, 50 years after its release, “The Exorcist” continues to top lists of the best horror films in history and is a must-see and one of the most memorable films for several generations.
A recent farewell
Friedkin died on August 7, 2023 at the age of 87 in Los Angeles, shortly before the premiere of “The Exorcist: Believer,” a movie that celebrated the anniversary of the iconic tape with a different plot.
The filmmaker was part of the New Hollywood wave of the 70s, and his experience as a director of TV documentaries gave him an avant-garde vision that transgressed into his artistic work.
Before “The Exorcist” he directed “The French Connection,” a thriller that followed two New York detectives in their fight against a heroin drug ring and received eight Oscar nominations, of which it won five.
The work captivated The Exorcist novel’s author, Peter Blatty, who pressured producers at Warner Studios to hire Friedkin to direct the film.
At the time the filmmaker claimed that he had direct contact with high-ranking officials of the Church to ensure the veracity of the scenes, but he later assured that it was not until he made the documentary “The Devil and Father Amorth” (2017) that he witnessed a real exorcism.
Be that as it may, the legendary scenes of the 70s film, including the 360-degree rotation of Reagan’s head, the green projectile vomit and the contortions of the girl crawling down the stairs, among other more graphic content and memorable lines, have been imprinted in the collective imagination and on to popular culture, keeping Friedkin’s legacy of terror alive for half a century.EFE