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The Exorcist

Nobody expected it, nobody believed it, and nobody could stop it. The one hope, the only hope: THE EXORCIST 

Year: 1973 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by William Friedkin 
Starring: Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb  
An image from The Exorcist

After the daughter of famous actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is possessed by a mysterious entity, two priests are called in to help perform an exorcism – Father Damian Karras (Jason Millar), who is struggling with his faith after the death of his mother, and Father Lankaster Merrin (Max von Sydow), who recognizes a familiar demonic entity he must defeat once and for all.

The Exorcist has gone down in history as one of the great pieces of cinema – it boasts excellent performances from all its cast, backed by an incredibly strong story and to this day, it remains incredibly scary. It plays it slowly, building up the characters and their lives and allowing the audience to invest in them, so we care so much more about the outcome. It doesn’t focus on monsters as much as it questions faith, and that is very effective. It holds back, refusing to play the exorcism up front, and that builds up the feelings of dread and excitement, culminating on of the best film climaxes ever.

The cinematography and the special effects are top-notch, with the director having gone to extreme lengths to ensure that the film was as true and as frightening as he could make it. And it is incredibly scary – the palpable atmosphere builds throughout the film, and the final battle with the demon child is like nothing you will ever see elsewhere.

The Exorcist is much more than a run-of-the-mill horror – it is smart, meaningful and powerful, and deservedly a classic.

Reece Goodall

One of the most harrowing things that can happen to a mother is to see her child turn into a monster. In Chris' case, this starts slowly, with daughter Regan hearing noises in the attic and claiming that her bed is shaking. As a loving mother, she makes the most of her connections and liaises with a local priest who has a counselling background and agrees to visit young Regan. The village has also witnessed peculiar behaviour of its own, including perverse desecration of statues of the Virgin Mary and the unusual death of Chris' friend Burke.

At Chris' evening party, things really take a turn for the worse. After behaving pleasantly throughout the evening, Regan returns to the party from her bed to urinate on the floor in front of all of the guests. Later that night, Chris investigates strange noises in Regan's room to find her daughter's bed levitating. Medical checks are performed, but no causes are found. Further behaviour, including impossible strength and the famous scene in which Regan rises and falls from the bed, results in Chris calling for an exorcism to be performed by Fathers Merrin and Karras, to remove the demon believed to lie within. But will it save Regan, or will further lives be lost?

This is an all-time classic and one of the best horror movies ever produced. Whilst some of the effects are dated by today's standards, the shock factor is retained, with the brilliant acting of Blair and Burstyn sending shivers down the spine. What can be better than seeing this fright-fest on the big screen at midnight? That is, if you have the stomach for it!

Robert Gardner

From director William Friedkin (Rules of Engagement, The French Connection) comes a film that really needs no introduction. It is perhaps the most infamous horror film ever made, controversially banned from cinemas where people were throwing up and fainting and inciting the utter condemnation of religious groups. The story is claimed to be based on the true-life possession by the devil of a boy in 1949 in Maryland. In this film the devil-possessed child is 12 year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) whose actress mother witnesses her increasingly disturbing behaviour. Doctors seem unable to help and so her mother Chris desperately turns to supernatural explanations, enlisting the help of Father Damien Karrass (Jason Miller) to rid Regan of her affliction, with an exorcism. Matters are complicated with the fact Father Karrass is fighting his own personal demons, trying to deal with guilt over his mother’s death and his waning faith…things the devil is only too happy to manipulate.

The spinning head and pea-soup projectile vomit may not hold the shock factor they once did for audiences; the scenes that made people sick in the seventies are probably most likely to raise a chuckle these days. However, The Exorcist contains scenes that are still shocking and frightening even to our slasher-numbed minds. Nobody can feel comfortable watching Regan’s vile misuse of a crucifix and the violence she deals to those around her. In dealing with the classic clash between good and evil, the themes of this film never get old. They are still being used now, in films like The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The acting is brilliant all-round, especially from Linda Blair with all that was expected of her. The shoot has a reputation for being pretty gruelling, especially on Ellyn Burstyn who takes a few knocks as Chris MacNeil, but fantastically portrays a weary mother approaching the very end of her wits. The script is perfect, the cast spot-on and the effects shocking. This has to be seen the way Friedkin intended, in the dark on the big screen in all its horrifying glory.

Hannah Upton

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Screenings of this film:

1993/1994 Autumn Term (70mm)
1995/1996 Autumn Term (35mm)
1996/1997 Spring Term (35mm)
1998/1999 Spring Term (35mm)
2005/2006 Spring Term (35mm)
2009/2010 Autumn Term (35mm)
2014/2015 Spring Term (digital)
2020/2021 Autumn Term (35mm)
2020/2021 Autumn Term (35mm)
2020/2021 Autumn Term (35mm)
2020/2021 Autumn Term (35mm)