This film lingered with me when I first saw it in the late 90’s. I can only imagine how shocking it was for those unsuspecting patrons seated in theatres when it premiered in 1973. I was curious if the HD version was better and if it still had the same impact. The HD versions of older films are both blessing and curse; usually they are much clearer which often uncovers poorly constructed sets, bad lighting choices and other sins of cinematography. Not the case here; the presentation is infinitely better, making the film’s impact surgically precise, that is, if surgery was performed by a Mac truck traveling at Warp 9.
What strikes me now is, from the opening scenes in Iraq where the evil is first detected, there is a constant and very intentional contrast between light and dark, black and white, shadow and overexposure. Intentional, since at its core, the film is a brilliantly written and executed version of the classic good vs. evil story. One priest confirms his faith, another priest questions his faith, a mother struggles to find her faith and a daughter is horrifyingly transformed as a conduit to facilitate reconciliation for all.
Acting is beyond extraordinary from Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair; you will of course need to stop laughing at the 70’s language and clothing to see these excellent performances. Linda Blair was 12 when she made this film and while its sad that her career stalled out shortly after, she will always be remembered for her pivotal role.