There is no denying the cultural relevance of ‘The Exorcist’. Transcending the traditional horror demographics and shocking audiences around the world, the movie stands as one of the most respected and celebrated horror movies ever made. Unveiled in 1973, the film was incredibly controversial, with reports of audience members vomiting and fainting during screenings. Never again has there been such a widespread reaction to a horror film, with many who saw the film in theatres still able to recount the experience over forty years later.
Sadly, it’s unlikely there will ever be such a passionate response to a horror film again. Certainly, even as a lifelong horror fan, I can’t remember anything scaring me the way people remember their experiences with this movie. But thanks to the efforts of YouTube channel BehindTheExorcist to preserve material relating to the film, we can check out the reactions of movie-goers in 1973. Many were unable to even sit through the entire movie, with record numbers of people walking of of the cinema in disgust or receiving medical assistance during screenings. Even medical profesionals waded into the debate, with Child Psychiatrist Hilde Mosse claiming that children viewing the film could be dragged “down to a primitive level.” But some of those who did make it through the film gave their responses to a local news crew, which you can check out below.
As well as this clip, the channel has preserved and made available exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the film, TV spots, trailers, and other footage demonstrating the cultural responses to the movie. In some of the videos, huge queues of people can be seen waiting for hours to see the film; coming from a variety of demographics highly unusual for horror movies of the era. One police officer working security stated, “It’s something I never saw in my whole entire life. It’s something different, and I went to a lot of movies but I’ve never seen anything like this time myself.”