Director William Friedkin, screenwriter William Peter Blatty and star Linda Blair may have considered The Exorcist to be a “theological thriller” when they were making it, but it sure scared the hell out of the masses when it was released on December 26, 1973. From the time it came out, the disturbing movie gripped the public’s imagination (and for many, confronted their religious convictions), terrifying audiences with its tale of demonic possession, some even fleeing theaters in revulsion or fainting from fright. I found the following clip on YouTube that captured various people’s reactions, not to mention images of the long lines of people snaking around movie theaters, from back in the day. Very few films in recent years would inspire people to wait in line for hours to see it, and certainly not to be scared out of their wits.
Will we ever see another Exorcist? There have been many great horror films released since then, but sadly none have won Oscars nor racked up the same kind of award nominations or box office grosses that this one ultimately did. The excellent The Sixth Sense came close, although it’s not quite as edgy or intense. Perhaps horror is meant to stay slightly underground, but it is always fascinating when a singular fear fest like this one can rattle the general public. See for yourself.