Daddy's Little Monster

Daddy’s Little Monster: The Exorcist

on March 29, 2012 | 13 Comments

[Ron McKenzie and his twelve-year-old daughter Emma return with a new installment of Daddy's Little Monster.]

I’ve been holding off on it for a while now. I first saw The Exorcist at 16, and it scared the crap out of me, in a way that no horror film has since. It pulled no punches and had no problems with putting poor little Regan through the wringer. Obviously, as a parent, I just felt that it might all be too much for Emma.

I was wrong. Very, VERY wrong.

Over March Break, Emma purloined my copy of the film from the McKenzie Grand Library and snuck it off to a friend’s house for a sleepover. Needless to say, I had concerns about it, all of which became completely unwarranted.

I think it’s best at this point to let the conversation speak for itself.

Ron: So you finally saw The Exorcist… despite my better judgement. Nevertheless, why don’t you get things started? Tell us what the movie’s about.

Emma: It’s about this little girl who gets possessed by the Devil. Her mother brings in a priest to help, but it’s too much for him to deal with, so he brings in an older priest – an “exorcist” – who has fought the Devil before.

Ron: Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Now, we’ve talked about it before and I’ve said I’ve always felt it would be a little too intense for you.

Emma: Yeah, for a few years now…

Ron: Nevertheless, you felt you were ready and took it upon yourself to give it a shot. Figured you might want to talk about it.

Emma: Yeah, I guess I do.

Ron: Alright, kiddo. I’m all ears.

Emma: Okay… are you serious? This movie actually scared you?

Ron: Yeah. It still does, actually.

Emma: [shakes her head] It was SO boring! Absolutely nothing happens in it. First, the mom talks to her daughter, then a bunch of her friends. Then some crazy s**t happens… and then there’s more talking. Then the old priest shows up, and there’s MORE talking. Blah, blah, BLAH!

Ron: So none of the possession stuff worked for you? The head-spinning, the pea soup… the crucifix scene?

Emma: Okay, that business with the crucifix was pretty messed up. But that’s about it.  I’m sorry, every time Regan said something nasty in that old woman’s voice, all I could do was laugh. I know it was supposed to be shocking, but it wasn’t. It was all too funny!

Ron: Alright, maybe, but take into account this was back in the ’70s. The very idea of a little girl spewing out such profanities was considered blasphemous and shocking. And let’s face it; she was saying some pretty filthy things.

Emma: Have you ever been to my school at recess? There are kids with serious sailor-mouth there who would make Linda Blair cry!

Ron: I’ll admit, it’s a talky film, but it’s also a film that – for lack of a better term – was made for grown-ups. The discussions of belief and religion and the existence of the Devil might be a bit much to interest younger viewers. There are a lot of heavy issues being discussed here.

Emma: Yeah, I know, and that’s why I didn’t find it scary. There was too much talking, not enough scary stuff going on and … well, I just didn’t buy it. Let me put it this way. I saw The Woman in Black with the same friends I watched The  Exorcist with, and we were all scared to death!

The reason a film like The Woman in Black or even The Ring scared me is because I could place myself in the situation. I could imagine being in that old, scary house or having Creepy Asian Ghost Girl coming out of the TV right in front of me. I could feel what the characters were feeling in those movies. I didn’t feel anything for Regan and I think it’s because Regan wasn’t the focus. So much of the story focused on her mom or the two priests, that when all the creepy stuff and swearing started happening, I knew more about the younger priest…I didn’t care enough about HER and all these things that were happening to her.

Ron: …Father Karras.

Emma: Yes, and how he felt guilty for his mother’s death and didn’t believe in God anymore. I knew NOTHING about Regan other than she was some poor kid who got taken over by Satan.

Ron: So you’re saying she felt like a plot device and that you felt no emotional connection with her?

Emma: Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying. I also didn’t find the idea of possession all that scary. I just couldn’t get my head into it, so it didn’t scare me.

Ron: So, wait, you buy Samara and the Woman in Black, but you don’t buy into demonic possession or the Devil?

Emma: Right. I believe in ghosts, or they seem more believable to me. But the Devil taking over a little girl’s body just seems so unbelievable. Probably doesn’t help that I don’t believe in the Devil…

Ron: … or God?

Emma: Yeah, don’t much believe in that, either. I think this film’s only really scary if you have some sort of religious belief, and I don’t. I also thought some of the special effects were a little over the top, especially the head-spinning. I don’t care if you’re possessed by the Devil, your neck is still going to break if you do that. It just seemed kinda silly.

Ron: I don’t necessarily disagree with your points – you’ve made some good arguments – but I also think you went into this with the deck stacked against you. The Exorcist is not the kind of film one watches with a gaggle of preteen girls (no offense intended) for a sleepover. It’s a film that requires a specific kind of focus and, being honest, a certain kind of maturity. This is not a shockfest, nor particularly gory, and isn’t meant as casual entertainment. I do think there’s some benefit to revisiting this film –

Emma: OH, no! Once was enough, thanks.

Ron: – revisiting this film WHEN you’re a little older, maybe 16 or so. There’s a lot of deeper stuff going on in a film like The Exorcist, and you really need to let it seep into your skin in order to get the full effect. Might I suggest for your next sleepover you take The Evil Dead or Slither from the shelf, something meant for casual entertainment?

Emma: I’m willing to give The Exorcist another shot later on. And yeah, it’s probably not a best choice for a sleepover… we were pretty hopped-up on sugar, too. But it’s kinda your fault. You had that film so hyped up with me. “Oh, you’re not ready for THAT yet. Way too intense! When you’re older.”

Ron: And I was obviously way off-base. Alright, I’ll take my share of the blame on that. I probably made too big of a deal of it with you, so of course you were expecting something that was going to melt your eyes out of your skull. That’s the thing about heightened expectations – the reality can never match up to it.  Shall we try again in four years?

Emma: It’s a deal.

Tags: Daddy's Little Monster, The Exorcist, The Ring, The Woman in Black

Responses to Daddy’s Little Monster: The Exorcist

  1. Alex says:

    Love the article. I was 14 when I saw the Exorcist for the first time, it helped that I saw it at a rep cinema on a huge screen. That’s a great way to be introduced to this film. But, if she’s interested… I know of a haunted VHS version of The Exorcist that I could lend her….

  2. john v. says:

    Nice article. This is the first one I’ve read of this series, so I’ll have to go back and read the older ones. My 13 yr. old daughter is convinced that there were no truly scary movies until fairly recently – within her lifetime. I haven’t convinced myself whether she’s just being ethnocentric or if she’s right. In your daughter’s defense though, my initial reaction to the Exorcist was the same. The conditions were nearly identical and I think I was in 7-8th grade. I still don’t take it seriously, but I’m not a religious person either.

  3. Thomas Eivins says:

    I read The Exorcist while in high school. My Mom, with some warnings and trepidation, had given me a copy. My response was similar to your daughter. I saw the re-release from a few years ago, then old enough to have nieces, nephews, and several friends with children around Regan’s age. This time it was terrifying. It is not just an “adult” horror story, it is a “parent” horror story.

  4. Frankensteinhead says:

    Good for Emma.I saw this movie when it first came out and thought it was an unintentional laugh-fest then! Obviously I was ahead of my time.

  5. Dark Mark says:

    On the contrary I feel it is sad that subsequent generations think this film is boring and risible. It still gives me a significant frisson unlike most modern genre films.

  6. Ron McKenzie says:

    It’s one of the drawbacks of getting older, Mark: Our generation is reaching the age where the things we held near and dear are less-so in the eyes of the next generation. It’s natural and inevitable and it happens to EVERYONE. In Emma’s defense , I would have been disappointed if it was just a case of “LOL this suxx!” She had specific personal reasons why it didn’t click with her. Not saying I agree with all of it, but she stuck to her guns & backed herself up.

  7. Alex says:

    I think you’re right, this is a film that gets scarier the older you are, much like the Shining. A lot of the horror (for me anyway) in these films is when it becomes clear that we no longer know or can recognize a loved one. I would LOVE to hear what Emma thinks in a couple years.

  8. FDBK says:

    I’m afraid to read this.

  9. jennifer chimick says:

    my first horror movie was Rosemary’s Baby, at the age of 4…this could actually explain alot about me. then i was treated to The Omen…i can’t tell you what i watched last week, but i do remember those movies very well…

  10. Paul Counelis says:

    Fun read, as always. This kid is so smart and funny. I think she’ll definitely “get it” when she watches it again in a few years. The points she made are very interesting, and like Ron I think it’s cool that she had distinct reasons for not loving it. I have been planning to watch it with my boys for a while now, and had been planning on fast-forwarding a few scenes, but now I think I’ll just let them view the film uncut.

    I watched it as a kid and it scared the crap out of me at that time like no film before or since, but I also think there’s some truth to what Thomas said about it being a “parent” horror story. There’s an abject terror in something as crazy as the events in the film happening to your child and not being able to help them.

  11. israel luna says:

    Great article. Although The Exorcist was one of the reasons I loved horror films as a kid, it’s always been a boring film. You fast forward through the talkie parts and watch the 3-4 “good parts.” Giving this film to a tween kid isn’t gonna work. They need to watch it for the first time when they’re in their 20′s or older.

    Cause if she was affected by The Woman In Black (I mean, seriously?) that says something about where they are in their head at this age. The Evil Dead is a much better recommendation!

  12. Pascal says:

    Loved your article, if I may suggest something in the same vein, but without the lenghty dialogues: perhaps she should see The Last Exorcist or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. They have the same theme, but all have different ways of treating it.

  13. Carolyn says:

    good article! I enjoy the Exorcist, but I agree with your daughter, I think it works best as horror on religious people. It’s a fun film, enjoyable but not scary to me. What does she think of the Exorcist III? It’s one of my favorite films, and deals with the religious / non-religious theme in and interesting way.

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