The Exorcist

The Exorcist, the box-office scare champ until The Sixth Sense, is back in theaters with eleven additional minutes and digital sound. For some, this 1973 tale of demonic possession will evoke tender nostalgia for a time when it was still shocking to watch a twelve-year-old girl (Linda Blair) stab her vagina with a crucifix in the presence of her movie-star mom (Ellen Burstyn) and tell a priest (Jason Miller) that his "mother sucks cocks in hell." For a new generation, the film, directed by William Friedkin from an Oscar-winning script by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel, will stir the same debate: Is the film a provocation about the nature of good and evil, or horror claptrap? To me, it's always been both. Still, there's something elemental about The Exorcist, even with the new hopeful ending that betrays the bleak original. Go ahead — critique, discuss.

From The Archives Issue 226: November 18, 1976