Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What an Excellent Day for an Excorcism

The unknown has always scared me. That’s why as a kid I was more frightened of Alien and The Amityville Horror than Halloween and Friday the 13th. I can deal with the natural crazies, but when it comes to the supernatural—uh oh. One of the scariest movies of my childhood was, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. It was actually a made-for-TV movie (they don’t make em’ like that anymore). It was first broadcast in 1973 and went into syndication thereafter (that was how I first saw it). It was about a young housewife named Sally (Kim Darby) being terrorized in her new home by Smurf sized demons hiding in the house’s ventilation system. These little buggers had orange, cone heads. My family and I called them pumpkin heads. There’s talk about a remake coming out in the theaters, but I hope they put the original on DVD. There’s actually a black market for the VHS copy because of an underground following for the 1973 classic.

Speaking of 1973, the definitive scary movie of my childhood came out that same year: The Exorcist. Heck, that movie still scares me now. My wife and son were out on Sunday, so I decided to watch it on my widescreen TV in HD all by my lonesome. Still disturbing. The book by William Peter Blatty is one of my favorites as is the movie. The book was remarkably well written. I say remarkably because for a book so frightening, it was incredibly descriptive of the subtle things, mundane things of everyday life. Blatty painted with words.

Because the movie is so terrifying we tend to overlook how good a film it is. Seeing it again makes me appreciate the craft in how it was made. This is the Oscar season and it was nominated for Best Picture back in 1974, a well deserved nomination. The acting is superb, especially by Ellen Burstyn. You believe she is falling apart as her daughter slowly slips away from her. The movie could have worked as a mother-daughter drama if you removed the possession aspect. It could have also worked as a movie about a man losing his faith. Jason Miller as Father Karras was also superb, dealing with the guilt over his mother. The movie has four dramatic story arcs all done realistically (Father Merrin in his waning years, Chris & Regan, Father Karras, and Detective Kinderman’s investigation). The movie is so well acted the audience can believe possession is real. That’s perhaps why it is so frightening. The events are presented as reality. There is no need for suspension of disbelief because Director William Friedkin, screenwriter Blatty, and all the actors make you believe that the ordinary can easily become the extraordinary.


  1. Ah, horror movies. I can't decide whether I like them or not. I keep watching them, so I guess I do. And look under the bed and lie awake for a week afterwards.

  2. Your niece Gaby loves horror movies! She always begs me to drive her to the mall so she and her girlfriends can watch them. I'm always pleading with them to watch something else. But I always loose the battle as well as everything in my wallet because I end up shopping waiting for the movie to be over. But I must say that if I was to let her watch the movie you blogged about 'Don't be afraid of the Dark' it would probably be the last horror movie she'll ever watch. Good idea!... I think I may rent this one, hehehehe!