Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Exorcist

Your mother reads reviews in hell. So, I had been avoiding watching this movie, because I am as far from a horror movie fan as you can get. I hate horror movies. But, when this one popped up on Netflix Instant Streaming, I didn't figure I had any more excuses to avoid it. I had been dreading it, but I ended up with the same feeling I had after watching A Clockwork Orange - that was it? That was the movie that shocked and terrified audiences and led to a moral panic about degeneracy and the need for increasing disgusting spectacle in movies? And then I thought, of course, yeah, that's the point. If a pansy like me can watch movies like this and go "Meh", we've obviously gone well-past what Roger Ebert lamented in his original review of The Exorcist: "Are people so numb they need movies of this intensity in order to feel anything at all?". I've seen more gore and filth seeing the YouTube commercials for The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. The only horror movies I've watched are because my sister likes horror movies, and sometimes used to take me to see them, and who was I to say no to a free movie ticket and popcorn, but while I've never seen a horror film as complex as The Exorcist, it wasn't the gross-out fest I was expecting. This is another movie that pop culture osmosis and special effects have not been kind to. The Regan puppet is obviously a puppet, and while the psychological aspects of the film are interesting, everyone knows the major lines, the basic plot, the gross-out parts, and is on the look-out for them. While I will forever tout the supremacy of practical effects (look at Mad Max: Fury Road vs. Transformers or just compare the old Star Wars to the prequels), some just don't age particularly well. I guess you couldn't really get Jim Henson on the horn and ask him to make a seamless masturbating puppet (though by all accounts, he did have a strange sense of humor, so he might have done it). There just aren't really surprises in the film anymore, so watching it is more an exercise in curiosity than an exercise in horror and suspense. And that creates a huge weakness. If you have a pretty good idea what's going to happen in a horror movie, can it be at all frightening? It can be shocking or disgusting, but can you really, truly, viscerally experience the emotion of fright? I can't say whether The Exorcist has scares left for the right audience. It's an interesting piece of film-making. It's one of the few times I've seen tilted angles used effectively. I would say it's worth the watch as a curiosity piece at the very least, especially considering the huge impact it's had on pop culture. But if you are the type who watches horror movies looking to be disturbed and frightened, I wonder whether this film can actually do that. It's a tough question, and there are only a couple other horror movies on the List for me to ponder this question over.

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