During the past few decades The Exorcist has been the one single horror movie which seems to bridge generational gaps by continuing to scare people no matter what year it is. That is a feat unheard of when it comes to such a niche genre like horror. The Exorcist was able to cross that threshold and go beyond just your typical horror fan by attracting mainstream moviegoers to its brilliance.
However, within the past couple years there has been a slight resurgence in the genre with movies like The Conjuring and Insidious taking aim at the box office. Do any of these modern horror movies stack up against the juggernaut that is The Exorcist? Let’s take a look and compare one of the biggest horror films of all time to one of the more popular ones of modern day cinema.
Its a film that completely terrified audiences to the point where even grown men were sleeping with the light on. The story of a little girl possessed by a terrifying demon captivated movie fans to the point where they could not turn away, even when the possessed girl was masturbating with a cross and vomiting all over a priest. Things got so bad at one point after the films release, people were actually running out of the theater to vomit in the nearest trash can.
The film also sparked a global rise in the amount of possessions reported throughout our various continents. People from Canada to Czechoslovakia were contacting local priests to perform exorcisms on their friends and family members who were believed to be possessed. The vatican even made a point to modify their rules on exorcism after such widespread panic was caused by this one movie.
Keep in mind how different society was back in those days when nobody was aware of, or witnessed, such horrific atrocities take place on screen. Of course today we are much more desensitized as a culture, and it takes a lot of effort to shock us. That was hardly the case when The Exorcist debuted, and will most likely never be the case again.
Next we move on to a movie which does a good job of representing the current state of horror. Now there are a few purists in the genre who tend to discredit this film for ripping off older horror movies, and plenty of people who just genuinely dislike it. While it doesn’t hold as high regard as The Exorcist, it certainly has done a great job of getting people back into theaters in support of horror.
The story itself centers around a basic ghostly possession, and has a few iconic moments to boot. Much like the classic scene in The Exorcist where we get a quick glimpse of the demons face, Insidious plays on the same gag by revealing their demon in a similar fashion. Even the title shot of the movie is taken from the pages of classic horror films like Susperia. Whether or not this qualifies as inspiration or just a rip off is up to you.
Another suspenseful element to Insidious is its use of contrasting media to scare the audience. There is a sequence featuring some fairly horrific imagery, which normally would dictate the musical score to follow a similar path. However, the music delves into the complete opposite end of the spectrum by playing a song from bizarre pop icon of the seventies, Tiny Tim. This contrast of style works well for the scene, and does a good job of extracting fear from vulnerable viewers.
Obviously The Exorcist has made its mark on history that will undoubtably remain in tact long after we are gone. I don’t view this as a total loss for Insidious though, and despite its shortcomings we must acknowledge its ability to attract more people to the genre. After years of awful remakes and terrible straight to video releases, it’s quite refreshing to see some original stories take center stage. The Exorcist remains a true classic, while Insidious played a major part in bringing horror movies back into the limelight.