The Exorcist: Still The Same Effect In A Desensitized 2009?

When I was asked to write this article a couple of weeks ago I really didn’t put much thought into what the reasoning was behind it. I assumed that in preparation for this summer’s blockbusters it would be relevant to highlight a past mega buster of a movie and contrast it to today’s features. But as I sat on this assignment the cogs in the head began to turn (hard to imagine, I know) and I understood the premise of this article.

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In 1973 the world was introduced to a film that not only shocked audiences but had such a visceral effect that it provoked questions of faith, the church and even the tangible struggle between what is good and what is evil. This film is The Exorcist and still to this date it is known to be one of the scariest movies ever made.

Based on a true story in the late 1940’s about a boy would was supposedly possessed and given the rite of exorcism while it was documented in The Washington Post, Author William Blatty decided to turn this horrific story into a world best seller after recalling reading about it as a teen. While he understood the subject matter was terrifying to many, he never intended it to be a horror novel. Instead, his intentions were focused on the questions of faith, if there is an absolute good or an absolute evil and above all, what is man’s role in that struggle. I believe Mr. Blatty was even more surprised by the reaction when his novel was made into a movie that shattered not only the fiscal record of any movie of previous date but turned audiences into born again church-goers.

But here’s the question. Does it still have that same effect in 2009 that it did in 1973? Movies,music and TV and even the somewhat new addition of video games have come a long way in pushing the envelope to what will cause a gasp among viewers. I mean, Fox has busted down some of the late George Carlin’s 7 no-no’s on TV language by green lighting the words “shit”, “bitch”, “asshole” “dick sucker” and “Goddamn it”. Well, I know those aren’t the exact ones but hell if you can keep your kids from repeating it in the most awkward of places. My point is, I don’t think that the shock in cinema has very much punch anymore. But the brilliance that Blatty’s novel and William Friedkin film, The Exorcist, has is that while the younger audiences may not blink an eye at the split pea soup vomit or the head spin, they will always feel the internal turmoil of their own beliefs in faith.

So, I decided to find someone who is in their early to mid twenties that has not seen this said film. Low and behold I found a person that was closer to me than I thought. This assignment was starting to be easier than I thought. But then again she hasn’t seen The Godfather or Rocky or even Star Wars (the original I think). She considers these to be old movies and from that I gathered, not as relevant or even as engaging as newer films. It almost reminds me of the people in the audience of The Blair Witch Project that were visibly disappointed the witch was never seen. I guess they can’t all be movie dorks like me.

Actually this person is one of the smartest people I have met here in the great northern state of Idaho so it was a real treat interviewing her before and after the first introduction to the film The Exorcist. But, before I just popped in the DVD I asked a few questions to see where her mindset stood.

Have you ever heard of The Exorcist?

Yes.

Ok. Now we are going somewhere.

Where?

Every where really…friends, other movies… Always had a curiosity. Seen parts but never really got into it. Pretty much a girl goes crazy on a bed and throws up.

Girl goes crazy in bed and throws up. Hrm…probably shouldn’t touch on that. Are you sure we are talking about the same movie?

What is the scariest movie you have ever seen?

Blair Witch Project, Killer Clowns From Outer space, Child’s Play, Arachnophobia

Let’s see, spiders, clowns and dolls. Yep, that covers quite a bit of most fears.

What are you fears?

Spiders. Intruders, death, horrific death

I like how spiders have a running theme. Personally, I can’t stand them either.

What are your religious beliefs?

I believe in a higher power. No specific beliefs but you have control of your own destiny. I don’t believe in a predisposed destiny.

I think I am in the same boat too. I never liked the term, “things happen for a reason”.

Do you believe in evil vs. good?

No.

Interesting…

What is scarier; Blair or Scream?

Blair. The setting is scarier.

Absolutely. Camping has never been so fun since.

Do you think 1970, 1980 or present movies are scarier?

Don’t know. Not exposed

And this is why you are a great canidit.

Alright. So now that I have a pretty good idea of where her mind is at we can start the movie. I must say that I have personally seen it 666 times, and it keeps getting funnier every time I see it. But I doubt she will have the same opinion.

I think I will save you the minute by minute observations I made so I will just sum it up. Now, she is pretty tough and I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t have much of an impact. She did however admit it to being scary and there were a few squeezes and gasps through out the film. That in and of itself made me smile a little. Maybe these “old” movies still got it.

All in all I expected this. It’s not like I was hoping she would stay up for nights on end and trigger a bed-wetting disorder. I expected a few creep out moments and maybe a little trepidation of going to sleep after the credits rolled but nothing more. Like I said, she is very quick witted and well-rounded but what was a life changing in 1973 is not even pulse changing now. I might be bias because I did see this as a little kid and the closet light stayed on until I left for college.

We now live in a society that demands entertainment to have bigger explosions, louder screams, more F bombs, and gorier death scenes while removing thought and deep personal emotion. Perhaps it could be focused on the political front as Americans move toward a secular Euro mindset, slowly nudging religion out of everyday society? Maybe the current news around the country and the world has been so stressing that it tops even the most shocking scenes any movie can produce? Or maybe, and I believe this, that we now live in a time that is so fast paced, every thing needs to be digested in an instant? Whether it’s Tevo-ing The Hills or Twittering the fact you have a headache for thousands to know, we have in fact almost fully removed the brain and imagination from entertainment. If you can’t understand the theme in 1.5 seconds, people will turn to the 1,000 other choices.

Well, since then I have talked with her and it turns out the fact that the film didn’t scare her…scared her. How do you like that twist? It made her question why she was not reflective on her own internal struggle with religion and good and evil. I guess that is a new angle on this old film and it still can creep in your soul without making you hide behind a pillow.

I apologized and said I will be using her again. This time for the movie Who’s Harry Crumb?.


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