Scary Movies? Really? Scarier than the lobby, filled with zombified patrons because some minimum-wager wasn’t careful and let a little zombie matter get in the popcorn butter, and now everyone with a giant tub is falling to the floor, writhing in agony and screaming nonsensical yet violent phrases like “I shit your brains stub AH! Carpet burn gimme those jujubees or I’ll tear your Let’s all go to the lobby brains” while the blood flowing from their tear ducts smears across their face and makes the spilled popcorn stick to their cheeks like crisp zits? Scarier than that? I don’t think so!
Heyyy, Jazz Fans! Jimmy Rudolph here. Y’know, it takes a lot more to scare us than it used to. Back in the ’70s, if a movie really terrified you, like “The Exorcist“, you would run out into the street. Nowadays, running out into the street would be your last mistake. The street is where the scary stuff is. By comparison,The Exorcist seems almost charming. (Go to the bottom of the post to see some archival footage of audiences from the Exorcist.)
Now, I confess, fans, back in the 70s, I might have been one of those people running out in the street. In fact, as I recall with some shame, I not only ran out into the street, I pummeled my date with those stainless steel poles that hold up the velvet ropes when she insisted on holding my hand. I always felt bad about that, and would have apologized if not for the coma.
But now that I’m older, and zombies are roaming the city, and Trish continues to vegetate, I ask myself, why did we all run? What was so terrifying about that film. I pulled it out from my coaster collection last night to see if the magic was still there. Sadly, the magic was more dead than the corpse beneath my window, rooting through my garbage for leftover brains.
The movie begins with a charming travelogue sequence, as Max von Sydow wanders through Bangledesh or Pakistan or, I don’t know, some Middle Eastern-y place. He nearly gets run over by a cart, he sees a dog fight, and discovers a statue with an erection. That sounds infinitely superior to the last time I went to Cairo, wearing my Jewish Defense League t-shirt. My tour didn’t show us anything as interesting as a statue with an erection. All we saw were pyramids. Yawn! I see those on my money every day.
Then Regan, the little girl, starts acting strange. Hello? She’s a teenage girl! Of course she’s acting strange! If your teenage daughter hasn’t projectile vomited on you at least once, you’re spending too much time at the office. She tries to masturbate with a crucifix. Well, who hasn’t done that? Am I right, ladies? I thought maybe we’d see something truly horrible when the priests were left alone with the strapped down little girl. But no, they try to help her. Maybe if she were an altar boy…
Finally, fans, we have to get to the big question– is demonic possession such a big deal? Sure, she’s got a little fever, water tears her skin, her vocal nodes are a tad torn. On the plus side, she can see the future (“You’re gonna die up there.”), she can fly (or at least float), she’s got super strength, and she can speak a bunch of different languages. I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing an origin story here. All you need is for Max to sit on her bedside and say “Regan, with great power comes great responsibility.” And we got us “Exor-Girl”! Compare this to what happens when you get infected with zombitus. You get the fever, you throw up a lot, your skin cracks– and then you die. And then your corpse reanimates and shambles the street, eating the brains of the living. All Regan’s doing is lying around in bed.
Sorry, William Friedkin, but you’ll just have to do a bit better. If you really want to scare us, you’ll have to give us an experience that transcends in terror the experience of– oh, I dunno– taking the subway home. Until that happy time, we’ll stick to comedies. At least the laughter is intentional.
“Audience Response from the Exorcist”
First off, the