Freidkin’s The Exorcist (1973) uniquely integrates microelements such as sound and mise-en-scene to devise a distinctive, unconventional style of horror that provides rich, authentic triggers for the audience to respond. Freidkin’s unconventional style focuses on realism, an aspect that many big-budget horror films fail to explore. Realism presented throughout the film explores the taboo topics of the supernatural, demons, and possession – topics that remained hidden in society then and now. Therefore, The Exorcist remains to be one of the best horror films with nine nominations at the Oscars, winning Best Sound, and Best Screenplay and the only horror movie to haunt people 40 years later.
Firstly, Freidkin’s uncanny use of mise-en-scene depicts an eerie and peculiar trigger that establishes the emotional response of the audience feeling entrapped in certain scenes. For instance, the Georgian setting of the house has an autumnal feel, leaves falling off the trees, creating a mysterious vibe, which is reinforced with the windy aspect to it. The house is an important prop as it carries significance throughout the film because there is a lot of foreshadowing especially when the first few signs of Regan’s possession are evident. For instance, as most of the characteristics take place at night, there are numerous wide shots of the house, and this mysterious house presented in the day, creates a sinister and claustropbic setting at night – without the setting feeling extra ordinary for the audience. The impact on the spectator establishes this idea of dark evenings, gloomy weather, and Halloween that takes place in autumn months.
Halloween in itself may be an emotional trigger for audiences, because Halloween, according to Mexican tradition, focuses on the dead coming back to earth for unfinished business – which is aggravated when Regan plays with the Ouija Board creating this character called ‘Captain Hardy.’ Some people may question the use of the Ouija Board and argue that Regan invited the Devil himself, however, because it was quite taboo in that time people would not question it and then want answers for why the Devil chose Regan to possess.
Therefore, Freidkin’s unconventional style of having the house present a sinister tone creates an emotional response of the fear of old houses like Victorian, Georgian – because it reinforces this idea of past and present. This is evident in many horror movies such as Rosenberg’s The Amityville Horror (1979) where the old Georgian house fools the characters and the audience – when in reality it is anything but unharmed because a demon or the devil himself invades the safety of the home. The corruption of safety in the home is a strong emotional trigger for female audiences because of their fear of vulnerability – another aspect that The Exorcist heavily focuses on.
the lack of some horror iconography establishes a trigger for the audience to be put on edge and fearful on what is to come throughout the...