Let’s talk about The Exorcist! I just watched it for the first time last weekend and below is a play-by-play of my thoughts while watching:
"This is the scariest movie of all time! I’m so excited! … It’s taking awhile to get going, isn’t it … oh, the little girl is cursing a lot. I guess that’s, um, scandalous? … hmmmm, I guess Father’s Karras’ dead mom is kind of creepy, but, well, not really… wow, that pea soup vomit really looks just like pea soup in HD … I could use a snack … why is the demon just lying there, with tiny little straps on it’s wrists? Can’t it break free? IT’S A DEMON … They sure do seem to like to listen to a little girl curse … is it weird that I’m a lapsed Catholic but am kind of offended? … Is it me or is this kind of … schlocky? … OK, then. It’s over. Hum.”
Yeah, I didn’t really find it all that shocking or scary, to be honest. Maybe that’s just because I’m a product of a post-Exorcist world? Like, the fact that The Exorcist was made, and at the time it was really shocking and scary, paved the way for movies to be more shocking and more scary, and I saw those first, so in comparison The Exorcist seems almost … boring? I thought about this a lot but then looked to see what JSTOR said and oh. Hm. This review is from a 1974 edition of Film Quarterly:
"The Exorcist is the trash bombshell of 1973, the aesthetic equivalent of getting run over by a truck … Despite their pontificating about Greek tragedy, the mystery of faith, and Good vs. Evil, director William Friedkin and writer-producer William Peter Blatty have actually made a gloating, ugly exploitation picture, a costlier cousin of those ghoulish cheapies released in drive-ins and fleapits almost weekly in major American cities."
I immediately feel better about my reaction.
Movies I find 1 million times more frightening (in no particular order, but mostly because I watched them for the first time as a child):
- Pet Sematary (ZELDA!)
- The Descent (True story: the first time I saw this, during the big reveal, I screamed as if it were happening to me)
- The Shining (duh)
- Psycho (my mother let me watch it when I was 12, but under the conditions that I allow her to explain the entire plot first, in an attempt to mitigate the fallout from letting a 12-year-old watch Psycho. It didn’t help.)
- JAWS (music)