It’s astounding to consider that William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” continues to pack such a wallop, even four decades later. Although I suspect its power to terrify audiences has been dulled over time, both by widespread cultural dissemination that has made its scares familiar even to those who haven’t seen as well as the technological advances of filmmaking over the last decades, there’s no denying that this classic still has the power to affect and stir its viewers. Ellen Burstyn’s performance is powerful from the beginning, with the commanding actress allowing the viewer to see her strong character slowly break down over what she’s facing, which makes the journey there all the more meaningful and resonant. But really, this movie is all about Linda Blair and, of course, Mercedes McCambridge: Blair’s natural, girl-next-door charms are exploited for audience goodwill near the beginning, while the makeup and special effects later on provide a canvas of pure, unadulterated chaos over her young body and mind. Meanwhile, McCambridge’s intense vocal performance as the possessed Regan burrows its way deep under your skin until it leaves your knees knocking. There really isn’t anything like “The Exorcist,” and there probably never will be.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)