Sunday, October 07, 2012
Making Monsters #6: The Exorcist
After four decades, The Exorcist has barely dated in its ability to freak out audiences. The reasons why are evident in the famous head-turning effect that happens twice in the movie, most memorably during the infamous crucifix scene. It's over an hour into the movie, and the audience has already been assaulted by Regan's sudden profanity and the effects, particularly the thrashing bed that caused Blair real pain, that depict the girl's violent transformation. All hell has broken loose before Regan's head turns 180 degrees and asks her terrified mother, with Burke Dennings' voice, "Do you know what she did? Your cunting daughter?" And the sight itself is so frighteningly uncanny, aided immensely by sound effects artist Gonzalo Gavira (who Friedkin located and hired based on his sound design for El Topo), who added the sound of a cracked leather wallet being twisted over the image of Regan's head turning; the sound design is famously as important to the entire film's success as the makeup and special effects. So we barely register the cutaway, necessary in the pre-CGI days, to match Blair's performance with the dummy necessary to sell the effect. Friedkin and everyone else involved have persuaded us to believe in the reality of the film; we don't see the strings, because we're completely along for the ride.