100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

100 Days of Horror-Recapping the Fall - "The Exorcist!"

As promised, I am counting down the last five or six films that I missed over my busy schedule.

Not having to rush, rush, rush makes it much more fun for me, and has given me some ideas on how I will conduct future "100 Days" challenges.

So stay tuned for more news on those future events! And in the meantime, get someplace warm and safe, turn on all the lights, lock the doors, grab an baseball bat, a bible and a gun and prepare for the horror that is 1973's "The Exorcist." Goddamn, this movie still scares me stupid!

The Exorcist (1972): Directed by WIlliam Friedkin. Starring Ellyn Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller.

The Skinny: While on location for a movie shoot in Washington, D.C., the young daughter of the lead actress starts to exhibit bizarre, almost supernatural behavior. Meanwhile, an old priest on an archeological expedition in the Middle East unearths signs that an ancient demon is returning to fight it out with its old nemesis once again.

What's Good: Perhaps the first - and highest quality - film to usher in the era of "Sophisticated Horror," "The Exorcist" showed us that no one is safe; that an act as simple as playing with a ouija board could lead to a confrontation with forces beyond our beliefs. In fact, belief and faith (and lack of them) drive the entire film to its roaring, supernatural conclusion. The film explores (much less successfully than the novel by William Peter Blatty) the nature of faith throughout: the MacNeal family ascribes to no particular faith (are, in fact, quite secular); the young Jesuit priest (the brilliant Jason Miller, nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1973), also struggles with his own faith, based largely on the poor health and eventual death of his mother; and Max Von Sydow's Father Merrin is a man of deep faith who has turned away from the church to scuttle about the ruins of ancient Iraq after a previous exorcism left him physically and emotionally shattered. When these disparate elements combine to save the life - and soul - of an adorable 12-year-old girl (an amazing Linda Blair, in perhaps her only decent role in nearly 40 years), all of their beliefs are tested once more, and their collective faith put to the ultimate test. In fact, it takes the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of Miller's tortured Father Karras to finally free Reagan MacNeal from this demon's grip (no, it isn't the devil). The re-touched version, referred to as "The Version You've Never Seen" is definitely the superior version to watch. Technology allowed a famously deleted "spider walk" scene to be seamlessly restored, and Friedkin added other subtle, almost subliminal elements that amp up the supernatural horror to 50. The film scares because if its clinical - and quite accurate - representation of possession and its various stages. It could happen to you or me. It wasn't a monster or anything we could see. And man that's damn terrifying, especially when you don't believe in a higher power in the first place.

What's Bad: Nothing, unless you're one of those people who're opposed to the occasional foray into gore and sacrilegious scenes - sometimes in the same breath, like when Reagan plunges a silver crucifix into her vagina while screaming "Let Jesus fuck you!" Yeah, then maybe skip this one.

Why We Like It: This is the first movie I remember watching that scared me to mother fucking death. I mean terrified beyond belief. I had to curl up at the foot of my grandmother's bed and watch it from beneath a pile of blankets - and that was the toned-down televised version! As n adult finally willing to revisit the movie (perhaps my tender sensibilities had finally been numbed down by all those slasher films), i found it to be a deeply psychological exploration of the nature of belief and faith, and I found myself paying much more attention to the nuanced performances and the clever effects than I was to the bad words. However, child or adult, the final exorcism scene is dark, bleak and unnerving. When I was a kid, it seemed to last forever, even though it was the scene I was most looking forward to. As an adult, however, I find myself dreading the final showdown, because it is one of the few movies that gives me the absolute fucking heebie-jeebies. I don't think I need to explain why. So instead of the mortal terror that Blair instills in me, I focus instead on Miller's incredible facial expressions and his agonized delivery of lines such as, "You're not my mother!" His characterization is what brings me back to this film again and again. And that's no slight to the always amazing Von Sydow, who is just one of the finest of his or any generation. He can wrench more emotion out of just five words than most actors can get from an entire page. This was Oscar nominated in 10 categories and won two, for best sound and best adapted screenplay. It lost Best Picture to "The Sting," let's be honest ... who's renting/downloading "The Sting" these days? Who's retouching "The Sting" and rereleasing it to theaters for it to net another $100 million? Fucking no one, that's who. And don't get me started on the "Goodfellas"/"Dances With Wolves" fiasco, either!

Memorable Stuff: Any of the early scenes between Miller and Blair are fantastic, the dialogue edgy and scary and quite quotable. And one aspect of he film that bothers me insanely is the graphic way it shows medical scans that are utterly ancient when compared to today's technology. They subject to to insanely loud CAT scans, spinal taps and arterial shunts and wholly fucking shit I can't watch that. But for me, the scariest and most memorable part is when during the exorcism scene she breaks free of her restraints and knocks the priests to the floor. The shot of her on her knees, hands in the air like claws, her head back and howling an unearthly sound, silhouetted against a light as the image of the Babylonian demon Pazuzu appears behind her ... Jesus, it just gave me a chill writing about it. Someone turn on the goddamn light in here, already!