When Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) begins to act strangely she defies all medical attempts to find the problem. She claims her bed and room are shaking before telling a man he will shortly die. Following this, a seemingly unrelated nearby incident occurs when of one of her servants dies mysteriously after being left alone with Regan.
As her behaviour becomes more and more erratic and her mother (Ellen Burstyn) witnesses the events, she enlists the help of two priests to exorcise the devil from her child.
Prior to watching the film for the first time, the only thing I had ever really heard about The Exorcist was of its infamous Tubular Bells soundtrack. People have frequently said to me that that is one of the mosiet scary pieces of music ever written, but I always thought it was quite catchy - until I watched the film. Another fact I'd read up on The Exorcist is that it regularly tops scariest movie lists (Entertainment Weekly) and, as I've never been a fan of horrors, my first impression wasn't exactly one of joy.
To begin with the actual horror in the film, it begins very slowly. A sweeping desert landscape is only reminiscent of The Mummy in terms of shocks but alas, there are none to be found here. The tension begins to build as the film moves to the city landscape and director William Friedkin starts to become my worst enemy. The image of Regan MacNeil possessed by the devil is definitely one of the scariest encounters I've had in film and intermittently flashed up images of the Devil only served to compound my misery.
The Exorcist is aided by Friedkin's decision to only use Tubular Bells in the soundtrack. There is the occasional deep undertone during tension building moments but other than that the film sticks with dialogue and action to continue the horror. Tubular Bells itself is used somewhat sparingly which is surprising for anyone associates it directly with the film having not actually seen it.
Finally, the acting of young Linda Blair needs to be commended; she is the powerhouse behind the film. She is irritating before the possession, but as her face gradually changes so does her acting. It has to be one of the finest controlled pieces of acting from a young person I have seen for a while.
The perfect horror.