Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #20

Re: The Exorcist (1973)

[Spoiler alert – SDG] In your review of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, you say: “Although Emily Rose is more grounded in the real world than The Exorcist, both films are ultimately about failed exorcisms.” I recall that in the latter movie, the exorcism succeeded. The demon(s) left the girl, went into the priest, he jumped out the window, then received absolution before he died. At any rate, the girl was exorcised. Am I wrong?

You’re not wrong about what happened. We just need to nail down what “exorcism” means. I’m using it to refer first of all to the Church’s exorcism rite, and more generally to casting out demons by whatever means. In this case, the exorcism rite certainly fails — nor does the priest cast out the demons, which implies an exercise of spiritual power or authority compelling the demons to depart. Rather, the priest bargains with them. So just because the demons come out doesn’t mean there is a successful exorcism.

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