18 August 2016

[Part 9, #1 + Guest Post!] TOP 27 Most Overrated Horror Movies of all Time

1. 
The Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin

Granted... William Friedkin is a talented director with a terrific eye for visuals and atmosphere. His adaptation of William Peter Blatty's bestseller novel "The Exorcist" is packed to the brim with beautifully photographed settings and stunningly gorgeous images. There's also some well-used "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield, cool special/make-up effects and a neat cast. You see, on a technical level, I find it really good.

Dafuq? William Friedkin is also an arrogant, pretentious and snot-nosed jerk. A terrible person who's so full of himself, it's hard to bear - and when someone like him makes a movie like "The Exorcist", the result is a stinker. A beautiful stinker, but still a stinker.

During my youth I heard nothing than frightening things about this movie. How scary it is, maybe even the scariest movie ever made, how people passed out in the theaters back then, some may have died or at least went bananas, and, most important, how scared my mother was when she first saw in on TV and was so creeped out by the possessed Regan, that at one point she ran into the bathroom and hid there for a couple of minutes because it was too much for her.

So, with all this shocking and earth-shattering stuff in my mind, I finally went to see "The Exorcist" in the local theater when it was re-released in 2000. It was a huge disapointment. When I came home and told my mom how bored and annoyed I was, she thought I watched an entirely different movie. Since then, I tried to understand what's so awesome about it, read countless books, articles and reviews, and even watched it three more times. Needless to say that no-one and nothing could convince me, that it is a masterpiece. Even worse: I realized that it actually gets worse and more laughable with every single viewing. Michael Keaton as Bio-Exorcist Beetlejuice nailed it: "I'VE SEEN THE EXORCIST ABOUT A HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT!"

Okay, just like with "Dracula" (1931), I realize that "The Exorcist" was something radically new back when it came out. It shocked audiences all over the world because they've never seen stuff like this before. It was quite a milestone and kinda revolutionary, I totally give it that. The problem is: other scary movies from that era, "Halloween", "The Omen", "The Wicker Man", "Suspiria" et cetera, they all stood the test of time perfectly and are still as creepy as they have always been - while "The Exorcist" just does not live up to its reputation. Both versions, the original as well as "The Version You've Never Seen" are dull to the max, frustratingly boring and tedious, at times unintentionally hilarious, at times just absurd, but on a terrible level.

Regan pissing on the carpet, vomiting pea soup, doing some wild masturbation tricks with her crucifix, and looking like a kid who just played around with mum's beauty case... that's not scary, that all just makes me giggle and facepalm. Also, after every oh-so-scary scene comes a dialogue scene that feels like it's three hours long. *yawn* Every character is so serious and everyone talks and talks and talks - pity none of them is any likable or sympathetic, and the viewer simply doesn't care about them because there's nothing about them to care for.
Needless to say: the entire movie takes itself WAAAAAYYY too seriously, many thanks to William Friedkin who always took himself way too seriously, though here, he was completely overdoing it. It's all so serious, so self-important, so self-regarding, it ends up as completely ridiculous.
It will puzzle me forever how anyone can be scared to death by all this hokum.

And now, here's what my good buddy and passionate writer Christian (FictionBox.de | Alifein24fps.com | Letterboxd.com/cornholio1980)
has to say about it:

"Apart from a couple of exceptions, I came to horror rather late in life. When I reached my 20s, I finally and slowly started to catch up on many of the classics – and while some of them held up really well, there were others whom I felt were hurt considerably by the ravages of time. However, even if I didn't fall head over heels with some of them, I usually – taking into consideration the time and the cultural environment they were made in – am at least able to understand why they are so beloved. However, up till now, in all my travels through classic horror territory, nothing baffled me quite as much as the undying love, appreciation and downright worship of William Friedkin's “The Exorcist” – a movie that, from my point of view, is the most overrated horror film of all time, and which I found to be extremly dull, too lenghty, and, most of all, completely unscary.

Maybe it's a cultural thing. Hearing young people swear might not be quite as shocking for someone in Europe (where movies that get rated R for swearing in the U.S. might be rated the local equivalent of PG) than in greater parts of the States. Now, granted, when Chris MacNeil is told by the doctor what her sweet little girl allegedly said, she laughs, but later scenes of swearing or inappropriate behavior which clearly were meant to be shocking just didn't work for me. When Regan pees on the floor in front of her Mum's dinner guests, tells the priest that his “mother sucks cock in hell”, or when she moves in suggestive fashion and screams "Fuck me!", I had a hard time not to burst out laughing. Which, I assume, was not quite the intended reaction.

Maybe it's a parental thing. Not having kids myself yet, I might have a harder time understanding Chris' anxious feelings towards her daughters behavior, than if I'd have a little girl or a little boy of my own, maybe even close to Regan's age. On the other hand, there are more than enough movies where kids are in danger, or where parents are worrying about some grueling fate that might befall their offspring, which work for me like a charm. Furthermore, shouldn't the movie ideally make me scared for Regan on her behalf, and not just on her mother's? I mean, take “Poltergeist” for example, where I hoped just as much for Carol's than for her parent's sake that they would be able to save her from the “other side”, since I really liked her. With “The Exorcist”, however, I unfortunately never felt any similar connection to either Regan or her mom – or any of the other characters, for that matter.


Maybe it's a religious thing. Being an atheist myself, I don't really believe in demonic possession, exorcism, and/or the power of Christ that's supposed to compel them to leave Regan's body. However, since I don't believe in Vampires, Werewolves and similar monsters in real life either, the fact that I'm a non-believer shouldn't really matter. Also, even though I admit to a certain reluctance concerning past and present politics of the catholic church, which in turn means that I have a hard time with movies that propagate some sort of Christian agenda, I'm also aware that it's not all bad, and that the church is also doing some good in the world, helping people in need, and giving comfort to those who are desperate. Thus, I don't oppose it utterly. (Or, as the saying goes: They're not all bad.)

Maybe it's a period thing. Back in its day, “The Exorcist” really might have been tremendously scary. Having seen it for the first time roughly 30 years after its release, at a time when I already knew many other, more modern horror films, which are much more “flashy”, I simply might have been too late to appreciate it – while those who saw it back in the day can still remember the fear that they might have felt in the cinema when they saw it for the first time. And I freely admit that “The Exorcist” isn't the only film of its era that I didn't quite find as scary as they are made out to be. However, there are also a couple of movies that were made around that time which scared the shit out of me. And there are also those which, even though I might not find them particularly creepy, I can still enjoy. Why should this be any different?


So maybe, just maybe, “The Exorcist” simply isn't all that it's made out to be. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. The performances are very good across the board, it's shot rather nicely, there is the occasional memorable moment, I love Mike Oldfield's “Tubular Bells”-theme, the make-up and effects are really well done, the ending wasn't quite what I expected, and when the exorcism comes around, the movie finally manages to create some sort of tension. However, from the weird prologue in Iraq, whose purpose eluded me even on this second viewing, the very slow buildup, many unnecessary – or at least unnecessarily long – scenes (like the stuff about Father Karras and his mother), and the fact that for more than two thirds of its running time, nothing much happens, “The Exorcist”, for me, first and foremost is a study in boredom.

Maybe it would have helped if Friedkin hadn't decided against the use of music for much of its running time (which might have enhanced the creepy atmosphere considerably). I'm also still baffled by the decision to age Max von Sydow instead of simply going with an older actor. It also definitely would have helped if I would have cared about any of the characters (which especially was a problem with the priests). Furthermore, I could have done without the occasional, far too loud and hysteric moment (even though, like the well-placed jump scare with the ringing telephone, they at least prevented me from falling asleep). And I'm pretty sure I would have liked it better if they would have omitted Regan's physical transformation, which, even though done well, meant that the later scenes missed the contrast of a sweet and innocent looking little girl doing and saying all these bad things (not to mention the fact that because of it, Father Karras' initial skepticism was hard to swallow).

Or maybe I'm just full of shit. You decide. :-p


To Quote... Vincent Canby, The New York Times 
"William Friedkin's film version of The Exorcist (is) a chunk of elegant occultist claptrap, (...) spectacular nonsense, (...) a practically impossible film to sit through.
(...) There have been unexplained noises in the attic of Chris's Georgetown mansion. The devil, it seems, for all his supposed powers, can't break and enter without sounding like Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano (...).
The care that Mr. Friedkin and Mr. Blatty have taken with the physical production, and with the rhythm of the narrative (...) is obviously intended to persuade us to suspend belief. But to what end? To marvel at the extent to which audiences will go to escape boredom by shock and insult. According to trade reports, The Exorcist cost about ten million dollars. The money could have been better spent subsidizing a couple of beds at the Paine-Whitney Clinic."

Critter Karr, CritterKarr.com
"The Exorcist is one of the silliest and dullest horror movies ever made. It's weighed down by a thudding sense of self-importance. The filmmakers really believed they were creating an emotionally powerful piece of art that offers a serious examination of evil.
(...) This is Hollywood's idea of evil. It was conceived by a comedy writer and directed by a hack and blessed by representatives of the Catholic Church (...).
(Blatty) calls it 'an apostolic work' and when you watch the movie (which he protectively produced) you can tell he takes his own claims a little too seriously seriously. He takes himself a little too seriously. This over-reverential seriousness sucks all the life out of the movie. There's a constant sense of cold sterile foreboding. We find ourselves caring very little for a girl who's possessed by the Devil(!) because the filmmakers have no compassion for her. Like the demon who possesses Regan they only care about how they can use the poor girl to convey their own shallow and infuriatingly obtuse 'understanding' of evil. It's a movie utterly lacking in compassion and warmth and depth — that's why we feel so indifferent to what's happening. It induces apathy in the audience because the filmmakers are apathetic.
(...) The Exorcist is a hollowed-out husk. An abandoned haunted house ride. It still makes noise and it looks kind of scary but there's no point in going inside. You'll only find rusty decay."

Clare Simpson, WhatCulture.com  
"I hate The Exorcist. Well, hate is maybe a strong word. Hilarious is closer to the mark. I cannot believe all of the apocryphal tales of people fainting in the aisles back in the 1970s whilst The Exorcist was on the screen. The only hysteria The Exorcist inspires in me is hysterical laughter. (...)
Everything in the film is too overblown and over the top to really offend people unless they are pottering around looking to be offended by something. I cannot believe it was banned for so many years, Mary Whitehouse must have rubbed her hands in glee. The problem with watching the film today is that it has been overhyped and turned into an 'event' movie. The viewer has heard so many stories about people collapsing and how the film is the 'scariest' film ever made that they are bound to find the film either stupid or laughable.
(...) The Devil/demon in the movie must be pretty boring if all it wants to do is possess a young girl and get her to talk like The Incredible Hulk and puke green stuff."

Better: The ONLY really great and wholly watchable entry in the "Exorcist" franchise is also one of my favorite movies of all time: "The Exorcist III" (1990), an indescribably awesome movie, not just way scarier, way more suspenseful than the first part, but also much more intense, intriguing, intelligent and thought-provoking.

If you want something else, you definitely can't go wrong with the gritty "Deliver Us From Evil", the quite entertaining "The Last Exorcism", the highly unsettling "Requiem", the fairly eerie "Possession" or the blaxploitation classic "Abby".

In case you're not interested in any kind of Exorcism-humbug, but still want some religious horror from the 70s: go watch "The Omen", a much, much better movie on every single level (storyline, actors, direction, atmosphere, creepiness...).


Thanks for reading! :-)


8 comments:

  1. ...meh, The Exorcist is still pretty entertaining for me...but hell yes, The Omen and Exorcist III! I watched the entire Omen franchise and thought it was actually pretty awesome (save the fourth...save. the. fucking. fourth)

    As for Exorcist III, three words:Brad Dourif Monologue! Now THAT gave me goosebumps.

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  2. I'm definitely enjoying your lists so far. I'm not completely onboard with the whole overrated idea though. It seems more like a best of or Horror classics list. I love most of these movies you've listed. And the Exorcist is definitely a classic. It was the first Horror movie that I saw in the theatre with my Dad. I was way too young to see that kind of movie. Lol.

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  3. in my opinion, the film is quite good but not because of the turning heads and gutural sounds. The feeling of distress that you may get after seeing it comes from REAL LIFE horrors... the countless medical interventions (that you or someone you love may actually suffer), neglecting your own mother and being haunted by guilt, the decline of a successful career... those are real situations that are not so uncommon and may actually happen to anyone.

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  4. Let's be as honest here as Maynard always is: THIS IS A CATHOLIC FILM. Full stop, no 'excuses'.

    The film was made back when a HUGE amount of the paying box-office customers were practicing Catholics or at least raised in that 'tradition'. Which means THEIR reaction to this film is separate to people raised in the you-tube generation which is often/most always an atheist generation. This means viewing the film through the cultural-contextual lens of people whom love Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens and other lovable anti-religists/anti-theists mean NOTHING, because the film was made LONG before Fry or Hitchins or any other anti-theist would be allowed to hold a fucking INTERN position in a film-studio-production-company, much less have any influence.

    The film was made FOR THE TIME OF THE BOX OFFICE paying to see genre films, in which the film was produced. A time in which MOST peopple actually 'went to church'. Anyone of today's generation can mock that for any 'enlightenened' reason, but if they want to be 'enlightened', metaphysically, they must be equally enlightened in an ECONOMIC WAY along with a 'belief' way. And that means that this film must respect 'what is scary and horrific' over 20 years before what we enjoy as 'the internet' existed. The same internet which allows us to post here, and help Maynard out. Times were different 'back then'. Just as times were different back when Karloff did 'the Mummy' in the early 1930's. Those of us with a brain in our head to not misqualify The Karloff Mummy film as 'overrated' becuaue we BOTHER to understand how films were viewed in the early 1930's, bearing in mind that most of what we consider to be as 'standard' had yet to be developed, in film-production.

    Anyone who'm fails to understand the same is true for The Exorcist, also dependent upon the time in which it was produced/filmed, is basically 'sucking the same cinematically and culturally incognizant clits/cocks' as critics whom never liked horror films in the 1st place and never will give horror films a chance. By that I mean true horror, like Exorcist, versus The Babafluke. Which to fair most likely WOULD have been a true horror film if the horror haytin' Australian Film Funding folks did not hate true horror films, versus 'Oprah Crap'. Thinly veneered as a horror film to score funding.

    Make no mistake: I have no prob with Oprah. Because she was HONEST, and never presented anything her money produced/supported as 'horror'. It was always what it was: talk-show stuff for benefit of the common weal.

    Babdook? NOT. Exorcist? COULD NOT HAVE BEEN. Exorcist was 'pre Oprah', and also 'pre Atheist', as a time in the American Fim/TV industry where, if you where an actor, screen-writer, director, etc., told TV Guide you thought 'Gid' was a crock of shit, you'd NEVER fucking work in the USA studio system again.

    So bear THAT in fucking mind before any of you make fun of the 'belief' aspects of this film again, affecting your comparison of it to frilms made by ppl lucky enough to be raised in more enlightened times.

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  5. "William Friedkin is also an arrogant, pretentious and snot-nosed jerk. A terrible person who's so full of himself, it's hard to bear..." What makes you say this? I strongly disagree, but, assuming you're right, so what if he is? The guy has made some of the most exciting, uncompromising films to come out of America in the past 40 years or so. I'm curious about your view of him, would you mind explaining your dislike of the man?

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  6. You're right. All these overrated horror movies are complete and utter shit, especially The Exorcist.

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  7. Agreed. It's about as subtle and intelligent as our current presidential candidates.

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  8. I dunno what's worse, that you think The Exorcist is the most overrated horror flick of all time, or that you recommend Deliver Us From Evil over of it. Yikes~~~

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