Tuesday, June 18, 2013

5 Movies That Owe Their Existence to The Exorcist

Guest contributor Alex Smith celebrates the 40th anniversary of The Exorcist with a look at the impact it has had on the horror genre.

The Exorcist is turning 40 on June 19th, and 40 years after its release it is still influencing the way horror films are made and the way audiences react to them.

When The Exorcist landed in theaters in 1973, it changed the way people thought about horror films. Some theaters used actors dressed like doctors and nurses to stand outside and suggest to people waiting in line just how scary the film would be, some theaters even sent paper bags inside with viewers in case they felt sick. A few countries even officially banned the film, fearing what might happen if the general public saw it.

The Exorcist is also responsible for launching an entirely new subgenre of horror films - stories of demonic possession - that continues to be a relatively popular type of horror film today. Here are a few examples of more recent films that probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for The Exorcist.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

It's almost impossible to watch The Exorcism of Emily Rose without comparing it to The Exorcist. Both films tell the story of a young girl possessed by Satanic forces, though Emily Rose is a little older than Regan was in the earlier film. The writers of both films drew (or claimed to draw) inspiration from true stories as well, though The Exorcist came about because of a story author William Peter Blatty read about a young man. He then changed the character to a girl for his novel and its film adaptation.

The Possession

The Exorcist was one of the first horror films that showed children in ways that were truly scary, and The Possession took that idea up a notch. Focusing on a young girl who finds a mysterious box, it has a few truly scary moments, but was panned by critics as nothing more than a series of cliches that can largely be traced back to the original Exorcist. Though the girl in The Possession never dealt with the same issues as Regan, she did slowly become both posssessed and obsessed. She even managed to do the quick "spider-walk" scuttle across the floor - a visual clearly swiped directly from the earlier film.


Mama made a splash when it arrived in theaters, but fans of the film quickly noted the similarities between it and The Exorcist. When their father takes them to a deserted cabin in the woods, two young girls find themselves under the care and protection of a powerful force they know only as Mama. From the moment they practically crab walk across the screen to the scenes where they notice a dark shadow taking over their home, the visual references make it hard not to think about The Exorcist when watching this one.


Halloween made a star out of Jamie Lee Curtis, launched a franchise that spawned several sequels, and turned John Carpenter into a legend in the eyes of horror movie fans. Many of those fans don't realize that Carpenter actually admitted openly than he felt inspired after watching The Exorcist. Much of that inspiration came from the music in that film. Carpenter noted how director William Friedkin used different sound cues to play with the emotions of viewers, and he used the same sorts of cues in his film. Halloween even had its own infamous scene that recreated the moment the priest steps into the light in The Exorcist, with its haunting figure standing and watching his intended victims.

The Last Exorcism

The Last Exorcism was such a popular film that it became one of the top movies of the year, and even spawned a sequel. Like The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, this one featured a young possessed woman. When a religious man agrees to investigate her claims of possession, he finds more than he bargained for, especially since he doesn't realize her demons are real. Though the film has an ending that feels like more of a cop out than a solid resolution, it managed to scare many viewers in the way The Exorcist did.

The Exorcist lives on in the hearts and minds of viewers, and as long as those fans keep directing their own films, it won't disappear any time soon.

Author Bio: Alex Smith is a freelance television and movie blogger for www.DirectTVDeal.com. He's a lifelong horror film fan who enjoys long walks on the beach and digging up old sci-fi, horror, and slasher films from the 1970s and '80s.

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