|The only thing backwards looking about the film is|
“In here. With us.”
1) One of the reasons this film is so brilliant--and the scare scenes so shocking--is how Friedkin approaches it almost as a police procedural. The clinical way in which the story unfolds, and the way it progresses, mirrors a mystery story. Hell, it’s probably the only reason Lee J. Cobb’s Lt. Kinderman is in the film!
2) Part of the reason the key scenes continue to shock decades later is that these scenes are shot with an almost documentary-like clinicalness and without music. What Friedkin seems to be doing is forcing us to realize these things are happening just because awful things happen to everyday people, and they happen without drama or elaboration....and that elevates what should be a shocking effects scene into something that feels all the more grotesque.
3) Supposedly Friedkin wanted Jack Nicholson for Father Karras, and Stacy Keach had been cast. Thank God he changed his mind and cast Jason Miller. In a film full of great faces, Miller’s is the best. His craggy features and sad eyes speaks volumes of his inner conflict and his past before he even utters a word. And when he utters those words, it makes us sympathize with him immediately.
|There is no way any of the other, more famous actors could|
do better than Jason Miller.
4) Yes, the film can be a little plodding in the first act--but I love how Friedkin uses the parallel structure contrasting Ellen Burstyn’s Chris’ life of leisure and her loving relationship with Linda Blair’s Regan and Father Karras’s more austere life and complicated (but no less loving) relationship with his mother. Friedkin doesn’t judge or come out one way or the other when examining these two lives, but allows us to decide who is using their time on earth more wisely.
5) Okay, I’ll call it--there’s no reason for that beginning sequence in Iraq and connecting Regan’s possession with it. If anything, it detracts from the concept that this horrible thing is happening at random.
6) As I watched the Extended Director’s Cut, I can safely say I didn’t care for the spider walk sequence. It seems to detract from the very gradual and subtle turning of Regan into a vessel for Pazuzu, and doesn’t have nearly the impact the other scare scenes have.
|One of the single most iconic images in 70's cinema...|
7) You have to give Blair credit. Yes, she’s a limited actress (something we cannot write off due to her youth once you take into account her full body of work), but she does work to make the bond between her and her mother, and her physical acting as she slowly falls under Pazuzu’s control is very effective.
8) As scary and disturbing as the scenes of Regan possessed are, the single most uncomfortable scene for me involves the spinal tap and encephalogram. The sheer quietness of the scene makes her cries of pain sound like rifle shot.
9) One of the things Friedkin excels at (and still excels at, as witness from some of his recent efforts) is making the best use of limited spaces. So much of this movie takes place in a single bedroom--hell, there’s really only two or three sets where most of the action takes place--that it needs someone of Friedkin’s spacial creativity to break up the visual monotony.
10) Reasons This Film Could Not Be Made #57: The bittersweet ending, where Father Karras knowingly sacrifices himself by damning himself to Hell, would never stand. And because it would never stand, the film’s ambivalent nature would collapse in on itself in an instant.
Overall...still pretty hard to watch after 40 years, a seminal movie for students of horror.