I’ve been holding off on it for a while now. I first saw The Exorcist at 16, and it scared the crap out of me, in a way that no horror film has since. It pulled no punches and had no problems with putting poor little Regan through the wringer. Obviously, as a parent, I just felt that it might all be too much for Emma.
I was wrong. Very, VERY wrong.
Over March Break, Emma purloined my copy of the film from the McKenzie Grand Library and snuck it off to a friend’s house for a sleepover. Needless to say, I had concerns about it, all of which became completely unwarranted.
I think it’s best at this point to let the conversation speak for itself.
Emma: It’s about this little girl who gets possessed by the Devil. Her mother brings in a priest to help, but it’s too much for him to deal with, so he brings in an older priest – an “exorcist” – who has fought the Devil before.
Ron: Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Now, we’ve talked about it before and I’ve said I’ve always felt it would be a little too intense for you.
Emma: Yeah, for a few years now…
Ron: Nevertheless, you felt you were ready and took it upon yourself to give it a shot. Figured you might want to talk about it.
Emma: Yeah, I guess I do.
Ron: Alright, kiddo. I’m all ears.
Emma: Okay… are you serious? This movie actually scared you?
Ron: Yeah. It still does, actually.
Emma: [shakes her head] It was SO boring! Absolutely nothing happens in it. First, the mom talks to her daughter, then a bunch of her friends. Then some crazy s**t happens… and then there’s more talking. Then the old priest shows up, and there’s MORE talking. Blah, blah, BLAH!
Ron: So none of the possession stuff worked for you? The head-spinning, the pea soup… the crucifix scene?
Emma: Okay, that business with the crucifix was pretty messed up. But that’s about it. I’m sorry, every time Regan said something nasty in that old woman’s voice, all I could do was laugh. I know it was supposed to be shocking, but it wasn’t. It was all too funny!
Ron: Alright, maybe, but take into account this was back in the ’70s. The very idea of a little girl spewing out such profanities was considered blasphemous and shocking. And let’s face it; she was saying some pretty filthy things.
Emma: Have you ever been to my school at recess? There are kids with serious sailor-mouth there who would make Linda Blair cry!
Ron: I’ll admit, it’s a talky film, but it’s also a film that – for lack of a better term – was made for grown-ups. The discussions of belief and religion and the existence of the Devil might be a bit much to interest younger viewers. There are a lot of heavy issues being discussed here.
Emma: Yeah, I know, and that’s why I didn’t find it scary. There was too much talking, not enough scary stuff going on and … well, I just didn’t buy it. Let me put it this way. I saw The Woman in Black with the same friends I watched The Exorcist with, and we were all scared to death!
The reason a film like The Woman in Black or even The Ring scared me is because I could place myself in the situation. I could imagine being in that old, scary house or having Creepy Asian Ghost Girl coming out of the TV right in front of me. I could feel what the characters were feeling in those movies. I didn’t feel anything for Regan and I think it’s because Regan wasn’t the focus. So much of the story focused on her mom or the two priests, that when all the creepy stuff and swearing started happening, I knew more about the younger priest…I didn’t care enough about HER and all these things that were happening to her.
Emma: Yes, and how he felt guilty for his mother’s death and didn’t believe in God anymore. I knew NOTHING about Regan other than she was some poor kid who got taken over by Satan.
Ron: So you’re saying she felt like a plot device and that you felt no emotional connection with her?
Emma: Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying. I also didn’t find the idea of possession all that scary. I just couldn’t get my head into it, so it didn’t scare me.
Ron: So, wait, you buy Samara and the Woman in Black, but you don’t buy into demonic possession or the Devil?
Emma: Right. I believe in ghosts, or they seem more believable to me. But the Devil taking over a little girl’s body just seems so unbelievable. Probably doesn’t help that I don’t believe in the Devil…
Ron: … or God?
Emma: Yeah, don’t much believe in that, either. I think this film’s only really scary if you have some sort of religious belief, and I don’t. I also thought some of the special effects were a little over the top, especially the head-spinning. I don’t care if you’re possessed by the Devil, your neck is still going to break if you do that. It just seemed kinda silly.
Ron: I don’t necessarily disagree with your points – you’ve made some good arguments – but I also think you went into this with the deck stacked against you. The Exorcist is not the kind of film one watches with a gaggle of preteen girls (no offense intended) for a sleepover. It’s a film that requires a specific kind of focus and, being honest, a certain kind of maturity. This is not a shockfest, nor particularly gory, and isn’t meant as casual entertainment. I do think there’s some benefit to revisiting this film –
Ron: – revisiting this film WHEN you’re a little older, maybe 16 or so. There’s a lot of deeper stuff going on in a film like The Exorcist, and you really need to let it seep into your skin in order to get the full effect. Might I suggest for your next sleepover you take The Evil Dead or Slither from the shelf, something meant for casual entertainment?
Emma: I’m willing to give The Exorcist another shot later on. And yeah, it’s probably not a best choice for a sleepover… we were pretty hopped-up on sugar, too. But it’s kinda your fault. You had that film so hyped up with me. “Oh, you’re not ready for THAT yet. Way too intense! When you’re older.”
Ron: And I was obviously way off-base. Alright, I’ll take my share of the blame on that. I probably made too big of a deal of it with you, so of course you were expecting something that was going to melt your eyes out of your skull. That’s the thing about heightened expectations – the reality can never match up to it. Shall we try again in four years?
Emma: It’s a deal.