Analysis: Horror Movies as Modern Day Morality Tales, Pt. 2 – The Exorcist
by Mike Dawson
Left Field Cinema
One of the most important horror movies made, and occasionally voted the greatest film of the 20th Century is The Exorcist. When it was first released, it was a controversial film, featuring explicit images, such as a young girl masturbating with a crucifix, projectile vomiting, and the same little girls head doing a complete three hundred and sixty degree rotation. Because of this and, more importantly, its perceived blasphemous content, it joined the likes of A Clockwork Orange (1971), and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), being banned for over twenty years on video in the United Kingdom because of the various reactions to it.
However the notion that The Exorcist is a blasphemous, and therefore an anti-religious film, although not unfounded, is considered by many, including its creators to be ill informed. The Exorcist has very strong links to religion, and specifically to Catholicism. The film is pro-religion, by presenting the Devil possessing a little girl; it then confirms the existence of God within the narrative. The priests are the only ones who can stop the Devil as the soldiers of God in essence.
The plotline of The Exorcist is based on an alleged true story about a young boy in the late 1940’s who was said to have been possessed. The author of the original novel, William Peter Blatty heard the story as he himself had been going through a crisis of faith and it helped to restore some of that faith within him.
“Surely it was proof that God existed. If the Devil (or his minion) had indeed been proven to have been within that boy, then surely the existence of such evil must lead to an acceptance of the reality of God.”
From this self-realisation, Blatty decided to show his faith-affirming story to the rest of the world. The Exorcist is not the only film or novel to use the theory that if the Devil exists then God must exist also. This has long been a staple argument of religious zealots whilst justifying the arguably hellish current state of the world. To use the existence of evil as proof of the existence of God; an example is the Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk till Dawn (1996) which presents a similar argument when a central character, Jacob Fuller (played Harvey Keitel), a former priest who has lost his faith in God, has that faith reaffirmed by the sudden presence of hundreds of vampires.
The theory links in with the notions of morality tales simply though the pro religious stance it takes, and by promoting the concept that when life is bad it will eventually become good. Not to loose faith in God because of the evil surrounding us, but to take that evil and find faith within it. Everywhere in life there are reasons to believe in God.
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