Is this the scariest film of all time? Possibly. Since its first UK release in 1974, the original "Exorcist" has acquired a near legendary status among horror buffs. A fact proved recently when this new version of the 27 year-old fright-fest slammed into the number two spot at the US box office.
Like all good horror, it taps into the audience's primal fears such as madness, random evil, and transformation. When the child Regan (Linda Blair) begins to behave strangely, her mother (Ellen Burstyn) fears illness and anxiously seeks medical help. As Regan gets worse, she transforms physically and becomes horrendous to look at. Slowly coming to realise that supernatural powers are at work, Mrs McNeil calls in the church, and the stage is set for the visually sickening, emotionally exhausting, and spectacular finale of good vs. evil. This new version throws fuel on the fire with previously un-released sound effects, and the disturbing 'spider-walk' scene in which the possessed Regan crawls, bent backwards on all fours, down a flight of stairs like a spider.
"The Exorcist" has become lost in its own mystique. Like "A Clockwork Orange" its long suppression in the UK, coupled with legends of audience hysteria have hyped the film way beyond its merits. There is no doubting this is a traumatic film, but whether or not you enjoy it will depend on what you're looking for. Its famed dramatic intensity is drawn largely from technical manipulation, and there is very little characterisation. Ultimately a hollow ride, you may walk away asking yourself what was it all for?