William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is still one of the scariest damn movies ever made, some forty years after it was released. As a lifelong horror junkie The Exorcist, along with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, remains the one horror flick I can’t watch alone or too late at night, because no matter how many times I’ve seen it, it always manages to disturb. Some younger viewers might scoff and say it’s not really that scary, but they’re wrong; they might think that because modern horror doesn’t really know how to do scary anymore and instead settle for “startling,” with all their fake-out jump scares and overdone noises. None of that sticks with you when you walk out the theater. The Exorcist, on the other hand, stays with you forever.
Director William Friedkin managed to put things up on screen that no mainstream horror film from a major studio would ever dare to put on screen today for fear of major backlash, which is probably why it has remained one of the very few movies from the Golden Age of modern horror (arguably the early 70s to the late 80s) that hasn’t been remade yet. Anything Hollywood would do now would either get the dreaded NC-17 rating or be so watered down to get an R or even a PG-13 that it would be a joke.
Back in 1973, when the movie hit theaters, audiences were just not prepared for this movie. Many people walked out of the theater, absolutely terrified, and some even fainted because what they were witnessing. (I once had a co-worker tell me his wife needed mental help after seeing the movie when it came out, she was so disturbed by it. True story.) Luckily, YouTube users historycomestolife and Behind The Exorcist have compiled some vintage footage that shows that those stories of audiences freaking out were totally true. Now you can see it all for yourself, and remind yourself just why the film remains so powerful.
HT: The AV Club