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‘The Exorcist’ and what it did for the genre 45 years later

‘The Exorcist’ and what it did for the genre 45 years later

‘The Exorcist’ and what it did for the genre 45 years later
June 13
17:53 2018

This year, the infamously shocking horror film, “The Exorcist,” turns 45 years old.

The film is directed by William Friedkin and stars Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair as the innocent 12-year-old girl named Regan who becomes possessed by the demon Pazuzu.

It is also the one horror film to still terrify audiences in the exact same way it did when it first premiered in 1973. While yes, it may look a little bit dated in some scenes, the film uses only practical effects and is made with all-natural filmmaking techniques. People who watch it today are still shocked at its unabashed horrific qualities just as audiences were back in the day. No other horror movie could ever say this.

Whether it be the spider walk down the stairs, the pea soup vomit, the 360-degree head rotation or the crucifixion masturbation scene, “The Exorcist” is packed full of nightmare inducing imagery which will threaten to linger in your mind much longer than you would ever want it to.

But why? Why is this horror film the one to craft such an incredible legacy of horror on its own and continue it with such ruthless versatility 45 years after it came out? It’s actually quite simple. Besides Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” this is the second film to singlehandedly bring the horror genre into the mainstream and make it accessible to the general movie going public.

While “Psycho” is still an iconic film that did have impact on the horror genre, “The Exorcist” set the precedent for every horror movie that came after it. It is truly one of the very few horror films to stand the test of time.

Filmmaking and the horror genre have drastically changed in the 45 year gap between “The Exorcist’s” premiere and now. An astonishing amount of the thousands of horror films that came after “The Exorcist” either tried to copy it or tried to utilize some of its device and plot points without much success. Countless films about demonic possession and demons overtaking innocence have been released since 1973, but none of them have ever come close to what “The Exorcist” did for the genre. Many have tried to copy it, but none will ever top it.

With the advancement of filmmaking and the speedy boom of horror films to the steady decline of them, “The Exorcist” is one of the finest examples of a horror film to completely rely on pure, raw scares and psychological horror in the finest form. While some modern horror films have done this successfully, “The Exorcist” is the film that set this standard for quality in the genre.

Most modern horror films rely too heavily on cheap jump scares, an over abundance of blood and gore and loud, sharp noises to factor in with jump scares to give the audience a shock factor to just slightly unnerve them for a couple of seconds. Films need to use actual, pure horror to get under the skin of the viewer and make them feel scared inside instead of just making them jump for a second when a door slams or something pops up onto the screen suddenly.

“The Exorcist” crafted genuine scares for its film, and it shows. The film instills pure, actualized terror in viewers today and was terrorizing audiences the exact same way in 1973. This longevity — spanning decades — is the mark of a truly great horror film.

Featured Illustration by Elizabeth Rhoden

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Spencer Kain

Spencer Kain

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