SYTYCR Round 2.7: Zelda’s Kid Sister VS. Falkor (THE EXORCIST)

by Nick Jobe · August 17, 2012 · So You Think You Can Review · 16 Comments

If we can’t get the voting back up to what it was before (though potentially without cheating), there might not be a version two of this down the road. Anyway, congrats to Kasper Gutman who won the battle and will be moving on to the third round! The next round has Zelda’s Kid Sister, who won in Round 1 with her review of Eraserhead, battling against Falkor, who moved through automatically, despite his incredibly controversial Oldboy review (and, um… be gentle here). And they’re both moving on to another kind of freaky with The Exorcist. Read, vote, comment, enjoy! You have until Sunday. And then there’s only one battle left of the round! Below is the updated bracket. Click to make it bigger.


Review #1
By Zelda’s Kid Sister

I apologize for what is likely a tasteless bit of humor, but I can’t get past a silly wish that the tagline for The Exorcist had been “The Devil went down to Georgetown.” It just makes me giggle. And believe you me, since there are no giggles to be had when watching the movie (except for the creepy, possessed kind), a little humor might lighten proceedings. As I’m sure everyone is aware, The Exorcist is a horror film of the first order. Released in 1973, this tale of demonic possession captivated audiences, spawned sequels and copycats galore, and was even nominated for Best Picture by the Academy, the first horror film to be so honored. Today it is still considered one of the scariest movies of all time, full of iconic scenes, images, and sounds that can immediately strike fear into the hearts of anyone brave enough to press play.

Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is a famous movie star, currently filming a movie in Georgetown, DC, where she is living in a stately brownstone with her daughter Regan (Linda Blair). Regan’s a happy, reasonably well-adjusted child, but when she becomes sullen, distant, and starts telling strange stories, her concerned mother takes her to the doctor. Through diagnoses of depression and lesions on her brain, Regan’s condition continues to worsen. Meanwhile, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is struggling with questions about his faith and the death of his elderly mother. When all other answers have been exhausted, the possibility that Regan may be possessed leads Chris to Father Karras, who in turn requests permission from the Church to perform an exorcism. The Church summons Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), who has experience in such matters, to perform the ritual, but at what cost will the two priests succeed in their goal to save a young girl from a horrible fate?

I think that in this day and age, audiences may have a particular notion of what makes a horror film. Generally speaking, they’re thin on acting, continuity, and plot, and heavy on gore. The Exorcist, interestingly, claims none of these characteristics. It’s an incredibly taut piece of work; dramatic, slow-burning, and punctuated by some truly impressive performances. The story, though straightforward, finds its strength in showing us the natures of the people who suffer through this ordeal, and how the experience shapes them.The normalcy surrounding the supernatural makes it that much more terrifying: the slow struggle of multiple doctor’s visits, painful tests, and baffled discussions gives the audience so much more depth than your average slasher. The normal skepticism of everyone involved, and the attempts to explain away the unexplainable keep the tension building throughout the first half of the movie; the exorcism that serves as the climax of the film comes as a relief, a deep exhale that lets us know we’re finally on the right track.

Perhaps the most surprising facet of this film is the acting. It’s all first-rate. Miller’s Karras is a tormented soul seeking answers, and Blair as Regan does an incredible job of navigating the horrors she both endures and perpetrates. Max von Sydow is somewhat underutilized, but his place within the structure of the story helps to explain that: he arrives when there are no more questions, when it is time for faith and action. He brings calm and strength to the proceedings, and in that he is superb. It is Ellen Burstyn, however, who is the star here. Her performance is awe-inspiring as she moves through the stages of Chris’s reactions to the situation: confidence to concern to full-on fear, hopelessness, and despair. Her deterioration mirrors that of her daughter, and is, in some ways, the more dramatic of the two in that she has no scary make-up or special effects to fall back on. The strength with which she convinces her audience that she is, first and foremost, a mother who will do anything to protect her child, is the emotional centerpiece of the film.

Director William Friedkin famously used all sorts of unorthodox methods (a special refrigerated set, firing guns to surprise his actors, and so on) to capture the look and feel of his film, and his attention to detail truly pays off. It is that precision that elevates The Exorcist and makes it a good movie, as opposed to merely a good horror movie. There’s very little left to be desired in the finished product: it can be a bit slow at times, although the extra exposition helps to drive the narrative and keep the tension up. Even the effects of the 1970s, often laughable in other features, are used judiciously and to success here. The major strength is, as stated, the adherence to reality in the face of the otherworldly. It makes the audience feel as though the same things could happen to them, and how would they know any better how to deal with them? How would any parent react to such a traumatic series of events surrounding their child? By keeping things simple and allowing our imaginations and emotions to run with the story, The Exorcist gets inside its audience’s head, stays with it well after the popcorn has been swept away. Even those who are not a fan of the genre will find things to admire about this particular example.


Review #2
By Falkor

Famous movie star Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is hard at work filming her new movie in Washington, DC. Throughout the duration of the shoot, she and her 12-year-old daughter Regan (Linda Blair) are living near by in a rented house. At first, everything is going great, but then Chris starts to notice some changes in her daughter’s behavior. At first they are small, and few and far in-between, so Chris attributes it to puberty. However, when Regan’s behavior becomes more severe, Chris starts to investigate just what exactly is going on with her daughter. After doctors are unable to diagnose her with anything, Chris begins to suspect that her daughter might be possessed by some evil spirit.

***NOTE: This review has been edited to remove any personal anecdotes or spoilers, per the request of all the comments from my last review. If you would like to read the whited out sections, simply highlight them with your mouse. 

Seriously? First I have to watch “Old Boy” and then I have to follow that up with “The Exorcist?!?” And meanwhile, other people get to watch “Die Hard,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Mask of the Phantasm!” Jeeze, give me a light-hearted movie next time!

Just like with “Old Boy,” I have never seen “The Exorcist” – however, this time around I knew a lot more about what movie I was about to watch. And I will be completely honest, I did not want to watch this movie. But I’m having fun in this competition, so I finally had some drinks and sat down to watch the movie last night. And while I can’t say that I liked it, I thought it was a really well done film.
Supposedly based on true events (the author claims that 80% of this story is the truth), this movie tells a very disturbing tale. And props have to be given to both Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair – they both took roles that could have easily been over the top and made them believable, and even more impressive, relatable. Burstyn in particular was fantastic as a mother who has absolutely no idea what is going on with her daughter, and desperately wants to help her get better. Her progression throughout the film was really great to watch, all culminating to the point at the end when her daughter is crying out for her and she hesitates for the longest time before running to embrace her. It is a heart breaking moment, and one that the entire film was leading up to. Blair, as I said before, was great as well – her role was a lot to ask from a 12-year-old girl! She did a really good job acting both terrified and creepy as all hell throughout the entire film.
The rest of the cast was pretty terrific as well, although I wish we could have learned more about Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) and who he really was. What is fascinating to me, however, is that because they gave him makeup to make him look older, he looked the exact same in this movie as he does now! That aside, he was really terrific, and the final scene in the movie where the titular event takes place is probably the best part of the film. You can see in his face how hard he is struggling to command what is inside Regan to come out. Similarly, I also liked Jason Miller as Father Karras. He brought a lot of heart and soul to his character, although I wish he was a little more developed as well. But the movie wasn’t about these two characters, the movie was about Regan and her mother.
Maybe I might be getting a little too personal here, but oh well. I absolutely believe in spiritual warfare, so a movie like this is certainly a terrifying prospect. One complaint, however, is that this movie has been parodied and replicated so many times, that I always knew what was coming next. I knew at one point that Regan’s head would spin around. I knew that she would spider walk down the stairs. So all of these very creepy scenes lost a lot of their punch because I knew it was coming. That’s not really a fault of the film, it is just an unfortunate side-effect because it is such a popular and well-known movie.
Another complaint that I have is that it really upsets me when child, or young, actors are portraying characters that do vulgar or disgusting things. I understand that they are just playing a role, however I don’t think that it is right. There is one scene where Regan is masturbating with a crucifix – which was the one point in the movie where I felt like turning it off. The thing is, Blair had to actually act like she was doing that. I know it might not bother other people, but it really bothers me. And it really takes me out of the movie.

The special effects, while a little hokey at times, were pretty impressive for a movie that was filmed 40 years ago. However, as always with older movies, I can’t help but wonder what the movie could have been like if it were filmed today. Would the effects have been more believable? It’s a minor thing, and one that I won’t fault the film for, but it is something that I kept wondering throughout the film. Also, I was not a fan of Regan’s voice when she was being possessed. I know they were trying to convey that someone else was talking through her, but the voice was so obviously not hers that it wasn’t really effective for me.
Overall, this is a pretty good movie. It is suspenseful and terrifying, but at the heart of the movie is a story about a mother doing whatever she can to help save her daughter. And that is something that everyone can relate to. It was a smart choice to center this movie around that hook, because otherwise it just would have been too far out there for people to really identify with. I think that is why the other films in the series weren’t as successful – they lost the human touch.
Now Vote!



16 Responses to SYTYCR Round 2.7: Zelda’s Kid Sister VS. Falkor (THE EXORCIST)

  1. Went with ZKS. Usually people go right to the high concept of the film and its signature scenes. I like the focus on the acting which is often underappreciated.

    At the risk of getting flamed, I’ll just say it: I thought Falkor’s use of the white text was annoying and an overreaction to the comments he/she got last time. If you’re going to use white text spoilers, do it for a paragraph max. Most of what got hidden was certainly not spoiler. Some of it (like the reviewer’s feelings on child peril) are legitimate to put into a review. And hiding sentences and even phrases in the middle of a paragraph is just annoying.

  2. Dan says:

    I wasn’t offended by Falkor’s use of white text, but I think it was pretty silly. I will say that it made my vote a lot easier and will likely make this a lopsided affair. That’s about all there is to say. Zelda’s Kid Sister had a solid review that flowed well and made some good points.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t care for the white text. If I’m reading a review from blogger Falkor, I’m reading it because I want to know what HE thought of it. He shouldn’t have to edit out his personal opinions, that’s what makes the reviews interesting. It sucks that other commenters made him feel otherwise.

  4. martinteller says:

    Voted ZKS. “The Devil Went Down to Georgetown” is a hoot. Falkor’s use of white text was gimmicky and annoying, and the note preceding it felt petty and pouty. Even disregarding that, I thought ZKS submitted a more thoughtful, elegant review.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am surprised that Falkor has as many votes as he/she does. Do that many people think Zelda’s Kid Sister’s review is so bad that they would rather vote for such a disjointed review with an annoying format? ZKS hands down.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Haha yikes I was just joking but apparently that came off as annoying more than anything else. But my point was proven – people said last time that the use of spoilers was “unforgivable” and that I put too much of my personal interaction with the film into the review, so I purposefully took it out to prove that people like to read personal opinions and spoilers (given they are warned). But it really was a joke – I wasn’t being serious.

    • Anonymous says:

      This kind of “proof” is pretty juvenile, to be honest. It’s like when a parent tells a kid to sit up straight, so the kid over-acts his posture by a million percent just to piss the parent off. There’s really no issue with writing a personal review. If some people prefer a more straight-forward approach, that’s their business. If you want to write reviews, you’re going to have to deal with people having different preferences than your own. The solution isn’t to make me think there was a horrible formatting problem when your review was posted.

      I happen to like it when reviewers put reasonable amounts of personal anecdotes, etc., into their reviews. It helps me see where they’re coming from. Throwing around spoilers for no reason, on the other hand, is bad form. They should only be used when it’s absolutely necessary. But I don’t understand why you would white out the phrase “when she was being possessed.” The movie is about a possessed child in need of an exorcism, isn’t it? That’s not a spoiler at all.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Also, given that im obviously not going on to the next round, I’d like to take a minute to say I really enjoyed this game. It’s opened my eyes not only to some of my weaknesses, but some of my strengths as well. Honestly, I felt I was dealt a raw deal with the two movies I got: if I don’t want to see a movie then I typically don’t really put my heart into the review. Totally my fault, but it is what it is. That being said, thanks again for all the input, and don’t write me off. I’m not that horrible of a reviewer.

  8. Anonymous says:

    All you “proved” was that a review written partially in white text is really annoying to read. I think in round 1, there was one person who said they don’t like a personal slant (which in my opinion is silly, but hey, that guy likes what he likes). I think the issue was more with your odd views on the subtitles.

    As for spoilers, no, most people DON’T like reading them. You said it yourself! “These very creepy scenes lost a lot of their punch because I knew it was coming”. But it’s debatable what constitutes a significant spoiler. Some of the things you whited out here are fairly big spoilers (although it’s not such a big deal when dealing with a movie so iconic) but more importantly, they’re unnecessary. You could have written about them without giving spoiler-ish specifics. Some of the things you white out are part of the basic premise of the movie, things that almost anyone would know going in, and knowing them doesn’t diminish from the experience.

    And sorry to be so harsh, but it’s just a sloppy (for example, you use the phrase “the titular event” when the title is not an event) and rambling review. But I will give you credit for taking such a risky move, that took guts.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Oooh, people are going to be sensitive on the use of white text for spoilers. It once again comes to whether people like to discuss before or after watching a movie, so it depends on who your audience is.

    In the case Falkor writes for people that have already watched the film, the use of spoilers is fine – with a clear warning at the beginning of the text. But if Falkor wishes to write to make people want to watch the film, then the use of spoilers (white out or not) is a big no.

    Having said that, Zelda’s is more concise in what he’s saying.

  10. Bubbawheat says:

    I’ve got to say that while I thought Zelda’s review was better written, I voted for Falkor’s humor because if he were to move on, I’d really like to see what he does next. May not be entirely in the spirit of the competition, but it’s my vote.

    • SJHoneywell says:

      I would suggest that that’s exactly the opposite of what’s intended.

      The whole “white text” thing seems really petulant to me. Someone didn’t like something last time, so rather than learn something from it (don’t print spoilers), take things to a ridiculous extreme, ‘cuz that’ll show ’em. Playing the martyr card doesn’t win any points.

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