This movie really is scary, and it really is good. From the Egyptian opening to the first jolt of the piece moving on the Ouija board, seemingly of its own volition, the tension is built to a fever pitch. The first moment of real fright comes with Regan (Linda Blair) being examined; she closes her eyes, and for an instant, until she reopens them there’s the terrible image of that white sunken, smiling almost face. Some of the absurd contortions of her body are disturbing going forward, but it’s the fearful expectation of that face that keeps the film buzzing with a quiet intensity. Perhaps its most frightening appearance is on the hood of a stove for a moment in the flashing of faulty lights.
The exorcism by the losing-his-faith Father Karras (Jason Miller) and the elderly priest late of Egypt is compelling, as is the very real fright of Regan’s mother (Ellen Burstyn), a movie actress playing in a film she calls something like ‘Woodstock by way of Disney.’