My mom raised me on horror movies. Nightmare on Elm Street and JAWS were particular favorites. But there was one horror film that she didn't want me to watch, and that was The Exorcist. She said it was "evil" and that lightning struck the screen of the drive-in theater (I heard this happened at a lot of drive-ins across the country) and that meant that God didn't want you to watch it.
Of course this TOTALLY made me want to watch it. And when I was having a sleepover at my best friend's house, I related what mom had told me about The Exorcist. She said, "We have it." Then she asked her mom if we could watch it and she said, "Go ahead."
We were nine, I think.
I was all, "Really? After your mom got upset that my mom let you watch Freddy Krueger with us?"
We shrugged and popped it in the VCR. And we discovered that aside from the last twenty minutes, it was boring. (The terrifying crab walk scene and possibly the disgusting and disturbing crucifix masturbation scene were omitted in the edition we had) but those 20 minutes were absolutely riveting.
Still afterwards we wondered what the big freakin' deal was.
Then when I was fifteen I discovered the BOOK.
The book was excellent. That's where it's revealed that the girl was possessed by an Assyrian demon named Pazuzu (which I thought was a badass name and immediately gave it to my new kitten) not the devil. You also get a lot more insight into the characters, especially Father Karras and his mommy issues and struggle with his faith.
I've since watched the film several more times and I still maintain that the first half is boring. I think the main problem with it is that it tries to cram so many details of the book into little scene bits simultaneously with things the director felt like throwing in. If it had been streamlined into one or two character arcs instead of 10, it would have been better.
The child actress also acts way too immature for a twelve year old and her babyish voice is annoying.
That said, there is also a ton of AWESOME in this film. I love how they sneak in visuals of the demon's face in random places. I love the dynamic of the battle between physiology, psychiatry, and religion expressed in the process of diagnosing Regan's possession.
I love the makeup and special effects.
Once Regan is fully possessed the film is masterful in creating some of the most memorable, traumatizing, and pants-shittingly terrifying scenes ever.
Like this one:
So despite having trouble figuring out who was who and why I was supposed to care, I recommend THE EXORCIST to any horror fan who hasn't seen it. And I HIGHLY recommend the novel.