The Devil in the Details: The Exorcist and the Uncanny

The Exorcist is roundly seen as the scariest movie ever made, and while I disagree on that point I can totally see why it’s engendered that opinion in audiences and critics alike. The film focuses on a young girl possessed by a demon, which twists and contorts her every which way and turns her into a snarling, hate-filled wretch, excellently voiced by the late Mercedes McCambridge. The mere idea of something invading our body, bending our limbs at impossible angles and forcing us to do and say things we never would is naturally disturbing. It’s also a notoriously grotesque film, making it controversial even today, albeit to a lesser degree than in 1973.

But The Exorcist, for all of its head-spinning and vomit-spewing and improper-use-of-a-crucifix-ing, is actually at its scariest, or at least its most unsettling, when it opts for the subtle approach. Though the possessed, Gollum-esque Regan McNeil obviously draws the audience’s attention, director William Friedkin made a point of littering the film with numerous, uncanny little details.