THE FIRST TIME I saw ‘I'ltt' litnrr't'xt was at a late-night screening at a cinema in North London called The Phoenix. The lilm was the second hall ot‘ a double hill which began with Ken Rtlssc‘llK Iii/IF Ut't‘i/x' work. lint sure. hut one which bounced off me like rain of a tin rool‘. because all I could think of throughout its two—hour running time was "it‘s coming. it’s coming. The lz'ym-cisl is comingl‘.

'l‘he horrilic reputation of The [fin/xix! is so potent that since it first opened in America on Boxing Day l‘)73. few people haye been

able to see it without recalling stories of

audiences l‘ainting. Vomiting and being carried ottt ol' the theatres. (‘ertainlyg l was aware of a genuine sense of threat. a feeling that this was

more than just an extremely well—made horror

lilm. l‘or me. and l heliey‘e for many others. there was something transcetulent about the terror which The lirnrt‘isl proxoked. .\lore hi/arrely. though. for a tttox'ic whose depiction of the possession of a young girl is so often brutal and ugly. there was also a real heattty

12 THE lIST " ~ ‘99s

a fine piece ol-

and innocence in this story ol' the triumph ol good oyet' eyil.

This is the contradiction which I helieye lies at the heart of The [Ann/st. and is the key to its extraordinary power. llax'ing now seen the film ox'er l()() times. and lox‘ingly‘ studied its eyery Name. | atn still unahle to reach one single con- clusion about why I loy‘e it so mttch.

('ertainly. watching

'l'lit' [fin/xix! is a

Visceral. etnotional

experience which

(like the \L‘t‘y lk‘sl

horror lilms) reminds you that you are aliy'e. Blll L‘\'L‘l'}ttltc‘ who \c‘c\ i/illt’ l'...\'()l'('l..\[ ltils it different reaction to the ttto\ic. with some \iewers eyen cotnpletely misinterpreting the story. and imagining that the linale presents not a triumph ol‘ good. hut ol‘ eyil.

ln tact. in William l’etcr Blatty‘s original hest-selling noyel. the ‘meaning' ol‘ 'l'lic


a S’s

liy'urt'isl is quite clearly spelled ottt. For all its appalling horror. the possession ol young Regan .\lac.\'eil is actttally a miracle ol‘ sorts. an extraordinary eyent which l‘orces the ohset'y crs (atheist mother ('ht'is \lttheil and douhting priest Damien Karras) to confront their own lack ol' laitlt.

Watching The Exorcist is a visceral, emotional experience which (like the very best horror films) reminds you that you are alive. Mark Kermode

In the ttoy‘cl and indeed original screenplay ol 'I'llt' litnrt'isl. l'iathet' Kart‘as actttally asks his elderly colleague Father Merritt. 'll' that‘s the deyil. why this girl‘.": to which .\lerrin replies. 'l think the point is to make us despair. Damien to see ourselx‘es as animal and ugly to reject our own htunanity to reject the possibility that (iod cottld loy'c ll.\.'