Here we have the granddaddy of the modern horror movie. Stories that people were fainting and vomiting during the more disturbing demonic possession scenes in the movie are largely untrue (the director, William Friedkin, claimed that most people fled the theater during the rather clinical scenes of a spinal tap being performed), but it sure as shit shocked the world.
To enjoy it, it is necessary to accept for a while that demonic possession is possible. I’m able to do that, while at the same time knowing that it’s complete and utter bullshit. If you can do that, it’s a real bladder-squeezer. No one had seen anything like this before. Now, of course, every other movie that’s released contained stuff much more gruesome (and, by now, tiresome) than we see here. But it is consistently rated in the Top Ten Scariest movies of all time, very often in the #1 position. And somehow, it still retains the power to shock. The version we just saw managed to startle me because it contained a scene I didn’t remember, a scene so singular that it didn’t seem possible I could have forgotten it. To my considerable relief, I discovered that it was not in the original release. It is known as the “spider-walk” scene, where Linda Blair comes down the stairs upside-down, head-first. Can’t be done, I thought, not in 1973. And it couldn’t. The wires were visible. So for the new version Friedkin applied modern CGI techniques of wire removal, and it’s just astonishing. Along with Rosemary’s Baby, this is one of the best horror movies ever made.