Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

The Exorcist


Exorcisms have always been a major interest of people because every religion talks about the idea of spiritual possession.  This interest is clearly demonstrated in the recent increase of movies about exorcisms.  However, none of these recently made movies have the lasting effect and cultural impact as the movie The Exorcist (1973).  The Exorcist is consistent with many actual religious beliefs about possession.

The movie tells the story of the possession of Regan MacNeil, and Father Lankester Merrin’s and Father Damien Karras’s fight with the demon inside of her.  Throughout the movie, Regan experiences several paranormal occurrences that lead her mother, Chris, to realize that something is wrong with her daughter.  Chris witnesses her daughters levitate above her bed, demonstrate great physical strength, and speak in a very demonic voice.  All of these characteristics are consistent with actual beliefs about exorcisms.  In Christian Scriptures, it is mentioned that a demon can give its host special powers and that it can also speak through the person.  It is because of this that Chris reaches out for help from Father Karras.  Later in the movie, when Father Karras, with the help of Father Merrin, are actually conducting the exorcism on Regan, other things happen that are consistent with actual beliefs about demonic possession.  During the ceremony, Regan taunts both priests, especially Father Karras.  The demon talks to him using his sick mother’s voice. According to Mark Bancroft, “Spirits who communicate with the living through channelers often provide certain facts relating to specific individuals in the audience which the person channeling could not possibly have known.”  At the end of the ceremony, Father Karras convinces the demon to leave Regan’s body and enter his before killing himself.  Reagan than returns to normal, without memory of anything that had happened to her.



5 responses

  1. Molly Allender

    I like how you use direct quotes from Christian Scriptures about demonic possession. The movie’s consistency with Christian beliefs was indeed a powerful tool, but I think the period in which the movie was released is also inflectional in it’s impact.

    April 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

  2. I agree with Molly you absolutely did a great job with finding the direct quotes of the Christian Scriptures, but the period in which the movie was released told a direct impact on the United States. Our country was frightened dearly and the image of the devil in this film put fear in the world’s eyes. The Exorcist was banned in 1986 under the Video Recordings Act, mainly because it was said to be too scary for home viewing especially under the fact that it can be a very trying experience for young girls.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm

  3. nickmehendale

    I love this movie. I think the most interesting thing about it is how they show how antiquated traditions and practices (exorcism) struggle to maintain themselves in a modern world.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm

  4. The fact that The Exorcist takes concepts of otherworldly experiences like possessions and grounds them squarely within frameworks that everyone knows, like religion, gives the movie a far more realistic sense of dread. The horror in the movie is drawn from the fact that none of the scares are played off as simple b-movie horror but instead as chillingly real. Before The Exorcist, horror movies were just geek shows.

    May 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm

  5. jlai1226

    I agree with the above post. The Exorcist is simply horrifying to many due to the potential realism of it. Like the original post said, the movie stays true to some biblical statements on possession. Also, the modern church has put a lot less emphasis on demonic possession to the point where it is not even part of mainstream theology. The movie is frightening because it addresses an issue that has been sort of brushed away but that could be potentially true.

    May 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

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