Something almost beyond comprehension is happening to a girl on this street in this house... and a man has been sent for as a last resort. This man is The Exorcist.”These sinister words appeared on the first posters advertising The Exorcist, now considered to be one of the greatest supernatural horror films of all time. Released in 1973, the film was based on the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin.

Alarming viewing

The Exorcist recounts the demonic possession of a young girl, Regan MacNeil, and the attempts to free her of the evil spirit. The film’s impact was immediate, and it quickly became notorious. There were reports of fainting fits, vomiting and even heart attacks among members of the audience. These physical reactions were triggered by its most disturbing scenes, among which was the one where the head of the possessed girl rotates 360 degrees. This proved so shocking for the time that the film was banned in some places in the US and in the UK, where sales of the video were prohibited.

465 The Exorcist

A nightmare

Not only was the film itself terrifying and controversial, but rumours began to circulate that the whole production was cursed. Friedkin told reporters that he and the crew “were plagued by strange and sinister things from the beginning.” While they were filming, a fire destroyed most of the set, and the leading actors — Linda Blair, who plays Regan, and Ellen Burstyn, who plays her mother Chris — suffered back injuries. Friedkin also said that “strange images and visions that were never planned showed up on the film” and that “the whole thing was a nightmare.”

A direct sequel

Despite or perhaps because of this, the film became hugely popular, and remains influential to this day. It was the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and it won two of the ten Oscars it was nominated for. It also inspired a multi-million-dollar media franchise, multiple film sequels and a television series. Now, fans are preparing to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary by watching the first of a new $400 million trilogy of films.

the exorcist: believer

In the first of a trilogy of sequels to the classic 1973 horror film The Exorcist, American actor Ellen Burstyn reprises her role as Chris MacNeil, now an elderly woman but still traumatised by what happened to her daughter Regan. She is tracked down by desperate father Victor Fielding (played by Oscar-nominated actor Leslie Odom Jr.) to help his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett), and her friend Katherine (Olivia O’Neill), who both show signs of demonic possession… The film is directed by David Gordon Green. The second film of the trilogy is set for release in 2025.