Actress and Writer Barbie Wilde recalls the first time she saw the 1973 horror masterpiece The Exorcist
It’s pointless for us to over-rhapsodize about William Friedkin‘s landmark 1973 horror film The Exorcist. The first filmed adaptation of William Peter Blatty‘s harrowing novel shocked the world upon release and then later, upon network television screenings in the latter part of the decade, where kids too young to see it, saw it, wrecking the cozy confines of their family homes.
Over four decades later, The Exorcist continues to fascinate, inspire and terrify. It’s a character piece, a cerebral and challenging theological work and its shocks are still feral and nightmarish. And while it’s a given that the movie has affected almost everyone who has seen it, it’s amazing to consider the impact the film has had on other icons of horror, artists known for their work in the genre and yet, when it comes down to it, are just as vulnerable and receptive to horror movies as the great, unwashed masses are. In this ongoing series, we will speak with some of our horror heroes and get them to tell us about the first time they saw The Exorcist and how it affected them…
Canadian born actress and writer Barbie Wilde forged her professional life in England, where she made her name as a TV personality, a member of performance art collective Shock and, most famously, as a performer in films like Death Wish III and of course, as the iconic Female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
These days, Barbie continues to explore her life as one of the most interesting purveyors of extreme dark fiction working, though cinema is still a huge part of her life. And here, in this amusing memoir, Barbie recalls the first time she, the future Hellspawn herself, first encountered The Exorcist.
“I saw The Exorcist at the cinema during its first run with my Syracuse University Anthropology professor, Dr Bharati, and a few other students. (Dr Bharati was actually Austrian, however, he’d gone off to India, became a Buddhist monk, then got kicked out of the country because he dallied with some ladies from the “wrong” caste. He was bald, 6’5” tall and weighed around 300 pounds. One of the most compelling characters I’ve ever met and a brilliant teacher to boot.)
“Anyway, the experience didn’t start out very promisingly, as Dr Bharati was tut-tutting at Max Von Sydow’s dire excavation techniques during the archeological dig scene. Needless to say, Dr Bharati thought the whole film was a bunch of hooie.
“However, I was completely drawn into The Exorcist. I’m the kind of cinema-goer that absolutely falls into a movie hook, line and sinker (if it’s a good one that is) and I was truly living the horror. Every time the camera would start to climb the stairs up to Regan’s room, my stomach would do a somersault.
“However, the one time that the narrative arc broke for me was the famous ‘head-turning’ scene. It looked so fake to me and I felt it really spoiled the moment. I think that the scariest scenes for me were when Father Karras suddenly sees his mother on the bed instead of Regan and when the statue of Pazuzu appears behind Regan through the haze of dry ice. And of course, having known someone who had gone through a lumber puncture procedure, that scene was distressing as well.
“Weird thing: the weather was balmy and spring-like when we all trooped in to see the movie, but it was snowing when we came out: big fluffy snowflakes that covered the ground with a thin layer of white, instead of melting immediately. Strange synchronicity moment: my future partner experienced exactly the same weather phenomena when he saw the film in London’s Leicester Square Theatre.
“I went back to my dorm. I came out of my room to go to the communal bathroom and all the lights in the corridor were out and there was a strong breeze in the hallway. Imagine my consternation when I realized that the windows at the end the hallway were shut. Spooky! So where did that breeze come from? The dankest pits of hell perhaps?
“BTW, although I love The Exorcist, my favorite has to be Exorcist III.”
Stay tuned for more recollections from horror’s favorite sons on daughters remembering The Exorcist!