Kathy Shaidle

The Top 7 Horror Movies for Conservatives

Posted on October 31 2010 11:00 am
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."

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Click here to purchase The Exorcist (Extended Director’s Cut & Original Theatrical Edition) [Blu-ray]

#2  The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist opened—December 26, 1973—breaking box-office records, and reportedly sparking (possibly exaggerated) outbreaks of couvade-like sympathy vomiting by audience members.

Again with the 1970s. But seriously, they were horrible. The Seventies were America’s hangover of the century—a decade-long, morning-after mourning of the innocence it had wasted the entire Sixties trying frantically to lose. The Exorcist provided a socially sanctioned outlet for pent-up frustration as high as inflation and gas prices.

Not old enough to see it when it first came out, I went to see a newly-struck print of The Exorcist when it was re-released a few years back, to great fanfare.

Perhaps because I’d seen so many horror movies by then, that I found the scariest part of The Exorcist to be the women’s Herb-Tarlick-in-drag wardrobe.

But so? The Exorcist isn’t even supposed to be a horror film. Jesuit-educated author William Peter Blatty calls his original novel “a nice little religious book.”

Which helps explain why, instead of scaring me, The Exorcist made me cry.

When the movie first came out, the Vatican II reforms were almost ten years old. The Catholic Church had thrown out the Infant Jesus of Prague with the holy water, trashing centuries of “superstitious” bells & smells overnight.

All too much, too soon (and way too “Protestant”) for millions of Catholics who declined to board Spaceship Folk Mass. So Hollywood unconsciously stepped in and did what it does best: giving the people what they want.

The Exorcist provides all the crucifixes, dog collars and cassocks you can stand. Not to mention an unexpected personification of heroism.

One critic called The Exorcist, not so much a horror film as a Western. Sure enough: when those two priests gravely mount the stairs to Regan’s haunted bedroom, I can almost hear a banjo plucking “Do not forsake me, O my darlin’ …”

Ah, the good old days, when priests were both human and heroic. Father Karras and fellow priests in the movie drink and swear, joke and box — and drive out demons on the side. Even rarer these days, each priest in the film can talk to pre-menopausal women without freezing into a stuttering rictus.

Max von Sydow doesn’t ramble on about Marxist eco-feminist paradigms or call for a group hug. And at the end, he doesn’t take a Hawaiian sabbatical. He does his duty, and dies. Before that, he personifies an ever-merciful God, loving the real child hiden beneath the pea soup and obscenities.

(The media’s image of a priest serves as the canary in the Catholic coal mine. As Rev. Donald B. Cozzens points out in The Changing Face of the Priesthood, we went from Bing Crosby’s manly, relaxed, competent Father O’Malley, to M*A*S*H’s wimpy chaplain in just a generation.)

Catholics renewing their baptismal vows reject Satan, and “the glamor of evil.” A delicious phrase, and profoundly insightful, because glamor refers to artificial, deceitful beauty; “glamorous” celebrities are merely concoctions of light and lies, secrets and shadow.

As the exorcist repeatedly reminds Fr. Karras, “the Devil is the father of lies.” How ironic that Hollywood (the mendacity factory) makes a movie about an atheist actress who’s making a movie, whose daughter is possessed by the Devil — and makes a film that, if not that scary, is pretty theologically sound.

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