Friday, November 4, 2011

What makes The Exorcist so horrifying

As any good horror film scholar will tell you, there are 3 different reactions one can have from a good horror film: startled, scared, and horrified.

Startled would be if you scrolled down and saw a picture of the face of a spider and you didn't know it was coming.

Which I won't do.

Scared would be if a giant spider appeared behind you and chased you around. That would scare you even if you weren't arachnophobic. Or as another example, if you were scared of spiders and you thought that I was going to show a picture of a spiders face (as an interesting note, spiders have eight eyes for extended vision. That still makes them scary as f***)  the thought of scrolling down to see the face of the spider is scary to you. I know it would be to me.

Now, an example of horrifying would be if I told you that a spider had been going around to the newborn wing of hospitals and eating his fill of the newborn babies. Don't worry, that won't happen. But if it did it would horrify you to hear that right? Does that make sense? No? Too bad. For those of you that do get it, I can tell you why The Exorcist is horrifying as opposed to scary.

I know that The Exorcist has been labelled as the scariest movie ever. I beg to differ. I personally think that (and don't laugh) Paranormal Activity 3 is the scariest movie ever (I told you not to laugh...don't argue, it's my opinion) because it lets you fill in so much of the scariness of the film with your mind. Do we ever see Tobey? nope but we see the scary things he does. Good, now I see The Exorcist as the most HORRIFYING film of all time. Why? Well, I'll tell you.

First off, meet Regan MacNeil

This is Regan holding...something. A walkalazoo. Call it what you will...

So, a few fun facts (alliterations eh?) about her, first off she's 12 years old and she has a famous actress for a mother.

This one as a matter of fact

She has the kind of home life that any daughter of a single mom/famous future Oscar winner (though not for Requiem for a Dream...Julia Roberts is a thief!) parties, a nanny, she has to find ways to entertain herself (such as the above picture. She made that...kazoomadoka...or whatever)

and that too.

Well if you met her with that she'd introduce you to her friend, Captain Howdy

Say hello

That is Academy Award Winner (Don't believe me? Look it up!) Captain Howdy, he is not very pleased to meet you. In fact I'll speak for the both of us and say that we are not very pleased to meet him either. So there.

Now, I'm sure that you can see where this is going. Captain Howdy (AKA Pazuzu) possesses Regan.

Now to my points!

This is Regan post-possession

Seems fine to me

and a little later

Okayyyy a little creepy but my sister gives me that look all the time

And later


and a little later



Now let's compare some pictures here.



Now you see that? That is pretty horrifying. DID I MENTION SHE IS FREAKING 12!?!?!? I mean look at her in the previous picture. She looks so happy and care-free. She has her paper-mache Walla-Walla Washington and she looks happy. In the bottom picture it looks like Rosemary's second kid got hit by a bus.

Now if you look at other horror films, you can be horrified. In David Cronenburg's 1986 film The Fly, it is pretty horrifying what Jeff Goldblum looks like in full fly mode. It is immensely grotesque. But do you know what the difference is?

The difference is is that Jeff Goldblum's character is an adult. In most horror films it is an adult that gets the gruesome scenes.

See, in The Exorcist it is a kid. Kids are supposed to be innocent. Even in horror films where there is some external threat to the kid, some older figure will come and protect the kid.

For example, in Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant finds himself taking care of the two children after the T-Rex attack. He is a big strong man with an expert knowledge of dinosaurs and their habits. When the cowardly lawyer leaves the kids alone, Lex says "He left us! He left us!" and Grant responds with a
reassuring "But that's not what I'm gonna do!"

In scary movies with kids, there is always a figure who can guard the kid from the external threats, they keep them safe until the threat has passed.

In The Exorcist? Not an option. It is the kid herself, the sweet innocent child, who is the external threat to everybody. The worst part? The mother can't do anything about it. When Regan first shows signs of possession, Chris turns over every stone in order to try to help her daughter. Every psychiatrist and medical specialist in DC is visited. Nobody can help. Chris is filled with the worst feeling any parent can have with a child the feeling of "I can't protect my child. I can't help her. I can't hold her hand and say "everything will be okay I'm here for you" I don't even know if everything is going to be alright." Not being a parent myself I cannot imagine what that must feel like. I can imagine that it is every parent's worst nightmare.

Now, did Regan bring this upon herself with the Ouija board? Theoretically, yes. But I have to imagine that she didn't know the consequences of playing with it would be. Let's go back to The Fly, Jeff Goldblum knew there were risks to his invention. He knew that something could go wrong but he did it anyways. He knew there could be consequences and thus his whole transformation is entirely his fault. Nobody can argue that. With Regan, she was just playing with a toy to entertain herself while her mother was away. If she knew what would happen she probably would have gotten rid of the thing. She got possessed because a wholly evil entity took advantage of her child innocence.

So, to recap, her possession is horrifying because she is an innocent child who didn't know the consequences of what she was doing. Her mother cannot protect her from the evil force threatening her and she doesn't know if everything will be okay. Plus, Regan is only 12 years old. She would have to be at least 5 or 6 years older before Jason would consider going after her. It is a cardinal rule in most horror that the kid cannot suffer. Well, I think that one was broken with The Exorcist don't you? And even when two people chosen by God try to save her, they can't. Not by the ways that they know how. It takes utterly horrifying means to finally get the demon(s) out of her.

Pretty heavy stuff huh?

I'll leave you with this clip. It might lighten the mood or it might just depress you even more. But it's fascinating.


  1. I honestly don't know if I want to watch this film, the pics freak me out enough as it is. Nice work Naseby, keep on blogging!

  2. It is certainly not a film for everyone. Thanks!

  3. I second Matt. You do make some good points though. great blog!