Nick Cull explores how the smash-hit horror film exploited all the issues that most worried Americans in the early 1970s.
It all began on the day after Christmas 1973. An unearthly screeching followed by the sound of the Islamic call to prayer pitched America headlong into the first screening of William Friedkin’s film: The Exorcist. During an atmospheric prologue a Jesuit priest and archaeologist, Lankaster Merrin (Max von Sydow), digging in northern Iraq, uncovers the carved head of a demon, made to ward off the forces of darkness as ‘evil against evil’. But Merrin is troubled by a premonition of horror.