This is the one you’ve all been waiting for! The number one film on Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies…Ever! And could there be any other film in the top spot besides the absolute nightmare that is The Exorcist? No way.
Demon: What an excellent day for an exorcism.
Father Damien Karras: You would like that?
Karras: But wouldn’t that drive you out of Regan?
Demon: It would bring us together.
Karras: You and Regan?
Demon: You and us.
There can be only one. And in compiling Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies…Ever!, this was the easiest selection of the bunch. At times it was tough to decide which films would make the list and where their rightful spots were, but there was never a doubt of which film would be number one. And it’s number one with a bullet. You can get a second opinion, but for this doctor, The Exorcist is simply head and shoulders above the rest on being just plain scary.
When you’re growing up, plenty of movies scare the bejesus out of you. I remember being practically crippled with fear as a kid watching The Evil Dead. But once you’re older and more jaded, very few films can really get to you. You notice the warts and the shortcomings you didn’t see as a kid. For some reason, The Exorcist is the one that still gets to me. In the article for the number two film on the list, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I mentioned that Chain Saw was indeed my favorite horror film. But I couldn’t put it at number one because The Exorcist is exponentially more frightening to me. It’s a pleasure for me to sit down and watch Texas Chain Saw, it’s uncomfortable for me to watch The Exorcist (although I try to go back and give it a gander at least once a year).
A horrific Christmas gift to us in the winter of 1973, The Exorcist was released to an unsuspecting world on December 26 and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards (winning for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay). It enjoyed incredible success at the box office. In fact, until Jaws surpassed it in 1975, The Exorcist had a brief run as the highest grossing film of all time.
Not only is it incredibly tense and suspenseful while viewing, The Exorcist sticks with you long after the show. And I’m talking years afterward. I literally still get chills when I see a picture of young Linda Blair in her full Regan MacNeil plumage…and the theme song, Tubular Bells, is simply haunting (and it makes a great ringtone). For me, this is the sign of a truly horrific film, one that stays with you, haunts you after you watch it…those movies you can’t shake after leaving the theater or turning off your television. The best, the most effective horror movies, are the ones that creep into your psyche and plant roots there. The ones that stay with you, and lay dormant, until you are alone, in a quiet, dark space with just your mind to entertain you. That’s when they tend to come back and remind you that they’re still there. The possessed Regan is in here with me just like the demon was in there with her, and she makes her presence felt every once in a while…and she still scares the shit out of me.
Director William Friedkin builds the story masterfully. And what an amazing story it is. Aside from the obvious focal point of the possessed girl, Father Damien Karras’ painful personal struggles add an additional level to the film and his loss of faith is woven into the main tale brilliantly. The demon cuts deep into Father Karras’ psyche, using every possible angle to weaken the faltering priest. Max Von Sydow’s experienced exorcist, Father Lankester Merrin, and his familiarity with the situation enlightens us to the power of the creature, making the climax of the film even creepier.
But what is it that really sticks with you after viewing the film? Everything behind that goddamn bedroom door is what sticks with you. The imagery of Regan as her body is ravaged by the demon is disturbing enough on its own. Add to this the incredible vocal work done by Mercedes McCambridge (the voice of the demon) and the intense content of the scenes and you have the perfect storm of horror. Fear, despair, sadness, loss of faith, loss of loved ones, denial, possession…it’s all there in The Exorcist. Incredible.
I must take one second to again mention Mercedes McCambridge because I do believe it’s the voice of the demon that truly puts this film over the top. Regan would not been nearly as frightening without the right voice, and this brilliant actress delivered the performance of a lifetime. Demons are scary, yes…but demons with just the right demonic presence are cripplingly scary.
For me, The Exorcist appears unapproachable as the scariest film of all time. It is Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Even the great movies gracing Doctor Gash’s Top 10 list come up short in comparison to the lasting impact this film has on this viewer. It’s a masterpiece of horror. Simply put,this is how it’s done.
But we’ve always got our eyes peeled for the next great film to make this list…
And with that, Dreaddies, I close this feature. I cannot thank you enough for your open-mindedness and participation in reading Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies…Ever! It’s a list that I’ve been wanting to share with you for a long time and thanks to Uncle Creepy and The Woman in Black I was able to do so. This is my Graceland. I know we didn’t all agree on every entry, but I appreciate you taking the time to read the articles to get an understanding of just what the hell I was thinking with each film on here. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it and again, thanks so much for your attention and comments. You guys rule! –Gash
Got news? Click here to submit it!
See if your mother is in here with us in the comments section below!