When it comes to unforgettable and absolutely terrifying horror movies, it's hard to top The Exorcist. Although The Exorcist is now an astonishing 46 years old, there haven't been many horror movies that have been able to compete with it's enduring power as a horror film. This classic story about a girl who becomes possessed by a demon is as edgy and scary today as it was in 1973, and it's the kind of horror flick that is perfect for Halloween but that will scare the pants off of anyone any day of the year.
The Exorcist is undeniably one of the most iconic horror movies ever made, but like any movie, this film is rife with details and little behind the scenes tricks and tidbits that the average viewer just isn't going to notice. The Exorcist is a masterfully executed and extremely detailed film, so it's natural to miss some of the little Easter eggs that make the movie more interesting. But here are 10 details behind his horror masterpiece that you almost certainly didn't spot.
10 Bad Aim
One of the most memorable moments of the entire film is when the possessed Regan projectile vomits what seems like half a gallon of pea soup straight in Father Karras' face, and surprisingly this iconic scene only took one shot to film, mostly because the take that was used in the movie was actually an accident.
The pea soup was originally supposed to hit Father Karras in the chest, but the plastic tubing that was being used for the special effect was misaligned, so the vomit accidentally hit him in the face. This meant that actor Jason Miller's shocked and disgusted behavior was his very real reaction, too.
9 The Real Killer
It seems like every successful horror movie has some weird bits of trivia that involve real hauntings or accidents for the set, cast, or crew, but The Exorcist is home to one of the most genuinely terrifying behind the scenes tidbits in horror history.
A medical technician named Paul Bateson has a brief scene as one of the characters at the doctor's office that Regan visits, and it was later discovered that Bateson was a real life murderer, and very possibly a serial killer. And in another weird twist, Paul Bateson was one of the serial killers who was interviewed on this latest season of Netflix's Mindhunter.
8 Agonizing Aging
Legendary Swedish actor Max Von Sydow shows up towards the end of The Exorcist as Father Merrin, the priest who seems to be more seasoned in exorcism who comes to assist Father Karras. And although The Exorcist is more than 40 years old at this point, it seems like Von Sydow has only aged about a decade in the intervening years.
This is actually because Von Sydow was only in his forties at the time of The Exorcist, and he underwent an apparently very tedious and painful makeup aging process every day for the movie. Von Sydow had liquid latex applied to his face every day and his skin was stretched as the latex dried to give him the aged appearance.
7 Artistic Inspiration
The Exorcist is a quite visually stunning and impressive film, and one of it's most iconic moments is when Father Merrin steps out of a taxi in front of the MacNeil household. He arrives at night, and the lights from the house as well as the street lamps cast a very eerie and horror movie appropriate glow over his silhouette.
But this particular scene borrows a lot of inspiration from the famous Belgian artist René Magritte. Magritte did a series of paintings in the 1950's that were called his "Empire of Light" series, and they bear a striking resemblance to this classic moment in The Exorcist.
6 Battling Demons
Although Linda Blair performed all of the acting scenes for the young Regan MacNeil, an actress by the name of Mercedes McCambridge was hired to perform the demonic voices that we here emanating from Regan once she has been fully possessed by the demon.
McCambridge was already an Academy Award winning actress, but she decided that doing damage to her own voice would make the performance even better. So she did things like swallowing raw eggs, chain smoke, and drink heavily in order to alter her voice. But the actress had battled alcoholism in the past, so ironically she asked for a priest to counsel her while she was working on the film.
5 The Spider Walker
One of the most notorious and terrifying scenes in The Exorcist wasn't actually in the movie originally. The "spider walk" scene is undoubtedly a terrifying sight to behold, and it was a scene that took a lot of work as well. The film hired a contortionist named Linda R. Hager to do the stunt, which she did with the assistance of wires.
The director initially said that he took the scene out because it was too early in the film for Regan to be doing something so extreme. However, the main reason it was cut was because there was no good way of hiding the wires. When special effects were advanced enough later on, it was added back into the film.
4 Acting Made Easy
The acting performances in The Exorcist are obviously a huge aspect of why the movie works so well and is so universally terrifying, but the performers in the film didn't need to do much in order to make many of the scenes believable, because in many of the scenes they were reacting to something unexpected that was actually happening.
A few of Ellen Burstyn's most memorable movie screams were actually caused by being jerked too hard by her harness, and Linda Blair screamed when a piece of the rigging on her moving bed broke and she wound up injuring her back as a result of the violent movements.
3 A Droll Demon
The demon that possesses Regan in The Exorcist seems to think it's quite witty and clever, and it seems to take great pleasure in messing with everyone around it. In one particular scene Father Karras speaks to the demon in Latin and asks for it's name, and the demon replies "la plume de ma tante."
"La plume de ma tante" is actually French, and it translates to "the pen of my aunt." It has become a bit of a joke in French language education, because it's a phrase that is often taught to new French language learners but is pretty functionally useless in the French language.
2 What's In A Name?
One of the more interesting Catholic Easter eggs within The Exorcist is when Father Merrin asks Chris MacNeil if Regan has a middle name. Obviously middle names are quite common, but they have some special significance to Catholicism and demonic possession as well.
In the Middle Ages, Catholics would give their children middle names and multiple names because there was a belief that knowing one's real name could allow the devil to control their soul, and giving a child multiple names was a form of protection against potential demonic possession or Satanic influence. Regan's full name was Regan Teresa MacNeil.
1 Help Me
The Exorcist is home to a lot of pretty impressive film techniques and visual effects, and one of the most interesting effects in the film is when the words "help me" appear in Regan's torso. This was a practical effect that was achieved with a couple of tricks.
The actual torso that we see is a foam latex replica of Linda Blair's actual torso, and the words were written out on the latex with a paintbrush and some cleaning fluid. The foam and fluid had a chemical reaction and "help me" bubbled up in the dummy torso, thereby making it look as if it were coming out of Regan's actual stomach.