“I’m telling you that thing upstairs isn’t my daughter.”
Firstly, let’s just get this one out of the way. William Friedkin’s masterpiece is not only a great religious horror film, it’s arguably one of the best horror films of all time. It not only boasted some of the most shocking sequences captured on celluloid but packaged those sequences inside a genuinely moving story about a mother struggling to save her daughter. Its impact cannot be overstated. Well, it could, but it would take at least five more pages of nonstop praise to do so.
The film is not on this list, however, to simply restate its many accolades. Friedkin himself described the film as an exploration into the mysteries of faith. The terrain of such an exploration proved a muddy one as the film is riddled with scenes of ostentatious blasphemy. It seems obsessed with the very real problem of flesh versus faith. The dreadful question being: how could life be made in the love of a benevolent creator when it can be reduced so such ugliness? And that ugliness is depicted unflinchingly in the film through scenes of Regan, a little girl possessed by a demon, being relentlessly tormented both physically and mentally.
It is interesting to note that the film poses the question, but never clearly answers it. It’s left for the viewer to decide. Perhaps this is one of the reasons people still find this forty-year-old film as frightening as ever.