3. Pazuzu (The Exorcist)
Sometimes, a thing becomes so ubiquitous, so much a cultural touchstone, that we lose sight of its original impact. Take The Exorcist, for example. It seems as if we all know it, as if the sight of poor Regan MacNeil under the control of the devil has been haunting our dreams since the beginning of time.
But, for as much as The Exorcist has worked its way into modern American culture and beyond, it’s only been around since 1973. And, even if you think you know the structure of the film, it’s worth a serious rewatch. Imagine being an unsuspecting audience member watching this. You would have no access to the internet, no real exposure to spoilers. Instead, you would have only the words of your fellow frightened moviegoers and the hysteria of those affected by its demonic themes.
In the film, Regan (Linda Blair) is the young daughter of actress Chris MacNeil. The two are living in Georgetown, a neighborhood of Washington, D.C., while Chris is in the process of filming a movie. Regan plays with a Ouija board and contacts a “friend” she calls Captain Howdy.
Seems innocent enough, until Regan begins acting strangely. She undergoes a series of invasive tests and medical procedures, but to no avail. Strange sounds soon begin to reverberate throughout the house, with Regan’s room and Regan herself at the center of the action. She soon begins to change, becoming vulgar and performing acts such as levitation and head spinning.
Priests eventually arrive on the scene and encounter Pazuzu, the ancient demon who has possessed Regan. While you never quite get a direct glimpse of the being, its effect on the young girl is horrifying enough. Careful viewers may also spot actress Eileen Dietz in a few quasi-subliminal flash cuts, her face made up to suggest the demonic Pazuzu.