Few things have been so distorted by popular culture quite like The Exorcist. The ooze-like vomit and crucifix masturbation that the film is famous for are but details meant to enhance the grand and traumatizing struggle of good versus evil personified by each character. Originally, a particularly horrific scene involved the possessed Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) crab-walking down a flight of stairs, coming to a halt only to howl and vomit blood.
This scene was cut from the 1973 release because director William Friedkin felt the effect was “too much” and the wires used to harness the contortionist stunt-double were too obvious. In the 2000 extended release, the wires were digitally removed and the importance of the effect was finally realized. Right before Regan descends the stairs, her mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is told that her director and close friend Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran) was found dead at the bottom of the steps outside her house with a broken neck. With doctors unable to help her daughter and her career and sanity threatened, this is the precise moment that her life unravels completely. The effects of a young girl doing these terrifying things isn’t to incite a simple shock, they are crucial moments in which the other pivotal characters are broken down and forced to question their very existence. What is overlooked by almost everything that has ever mentioned the film is that Regan’s character is not only a vessel for evil but is a tool used to force everyone in contact with her to confront the evil they feel inside themselves; whether it’s her own mother questioning what she has done to allow this to happen to her daughter despite the ‘ideal’ life she has provided or the rouge priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller), who questions his own faith and blames himself for his own mother’s neglected condition and even her eventual death. Every character has something for the true evil inside of Regan to exploit. Continue reading