|"The Exorcist" Returns|
Who can forget the chilling images of Regan's bed violently hammering against the floor while the exorcist casts holy water on the writhing body of the possessed girl... her spinning head... the demon's sly psychological taunting of the priests as it targets them for its obscenities and its vile green vomit?
On September 22, 2000, The Exorcist was re-released into motion picture theaters with restored footage and digitally remastered sound. Originally released in 1973, The Exorcist is arguably the scariest movie ever made - and that's saying something considering today's more technically sophisticated digital effects. Although in 1973 the film featured state-of-the-art visual and makeup effects, its real power comes from the psychological terror it instills. Based on the best-selling novel by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist taps into a primal fear: that sheer evil can confront, manipulate and even possess a human personality.
The terror of The Exorcist stays with us because of the belief that demonic possession is real. The viewer thinks, "This could happen to someone I love... or to me."
The casting out of demons dates back to at least the 6th century BCE, and undoubtedly much further. In the New Testament, Jesus is described as driving out demons. The practice was common in the Middle Ages when the Catholic Church performed public exorcisms. A formalized ritual, known as the "Roman Ritual," was created by the Church in 1614 - the same ritual that is conducted in the film by Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow).
Eventually, many personality disorders and forms of mental illness were recognized as the causes of afflictions once attributed to demonic possession, but the practice never went away. It was kept quiet by the Church for many years, but the Vatican has always had its exorcists. In fact, in 1999 - as if preparing for new battles in the new millennium - the Vatican updated the 1614 ritual to reflect more modern thinking and to "be more careful in distinguishing between possession by evil spirits and what are more commonly called psychiatric disturbances."
And in early September of 2000, Pope John Paul II himself was involved in an informal exorcism. During the Pope's weekly audience at the Vatican, a teenage girl began "screaming insults in a cavernous voice." According to the newspaper accounts, the girl displayed "a superhuman strength" when Vatican guards tried to control her, and when a Bishop intervened, she began "insulting him, uttering disconnected phrases, and speaking in unknown tongues." She was brought to the Pope, who exorcised her, then sat and talked with the girl for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the calming effects of the visit with the Pope were only temporary, and the girl soon resumed her disturbing behavior. Headlines for the news story read: "Devil defeats the Pope in Vatican exorcism battle." The girl's parents say she's been possessed since the age of 12. And the exorcism was the third in the Pope's career.
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