It Came From the ’80s: How ‘The Exorcist’ Corrupted Two Catholic School Girls!

February 8, 2011

Iconic scene from The Exorcist (1973)

by Sheri White

If you’ve been reading my essays, you’d think that I only saw movies with boys when I was a teenager.  Not so!  One of my best friends, Marybeth, and I saw The Exorcist together at a midnight movie.

We worked together, with some of our other friends, at an amusement park called Wild World (which is now Six Flags, and has lost its charm).  Marybeth was a Carts Manager, and I was a Roving Cashier. Yeah, we were pretty cool.

One night after the park closed, Marybeth and I decided to go to see a movie.  Midnight movies were popular in the 80s, so there was always an excuse to be out late.  Sometimes, telling our parents we were seeing a midnight movie was an excellent opportunity to be getting into trouble somewhere else.

But on this night, we did go to the movies, and we got to see The Exorcist.  I had only seen bits and pieces of it on television; my mom wouldn’t let me watch it whenever it was on TV.  I had seen enough to know it was pretty scary.  Not to mention, Marybeth and I were Catholic girls and just knew this was a true story.  I mean, the nuns at school were always warning us away from Ouija boards and rock music since they were evil and could possess us.

I don’t know about Marybeth, but I believed with all my heart that a Ouija board could possess you (rock music not so much).  I even went into another room at a slumber party when one of the girls brought one out.

Hell, I still won’t mess with a Ouija board!

So when Regan befriended Captain Howdy through her board, I knew she was in for a lot of trouble.  Understatement, right?

I remember watching a lot of The Exorcist through my fingers.  I still think it’s the scariest movie ever made, and I still can’t watch it alone.  Marybeth and I did a lot of grabbing one another and shrieking, especially when Regan’s head spun around.  The sound it made!  Dear God, the sound.

This was before the Director’s Cut that was released back in 2000, thankfully.  I think if I had seen the “spider walk” at age 16, I’d still be recovering.

Get this, though – my 15-year-old daughter recently watched The Exorcistall by herself.  And it was the Director’s Cut version with the “spider walk!”  WTF? The kid is braver than I am, that’s for sure.

Although I was completely terrified during the movie, I had a lot of fun. Trying to sleep later that night was a different story; I kept seeing Regan as she levitated during the exorcism in my mind’s eye.  And was it wrong to think the young priest was cute?  I’m sure the nuns at school would be horrified to know I thought so.

Marybeth and I are still friends, almost 30 years later.  I hope she remembers that night and had as much fun as I had.  I don’t know if she’s seen The Exorcist since that midnight movie.  I’ve seen the “spider walk” online (thanks for sending me the link, lovely daughter; you know I can’t resist links) and that’s been enough for me.

I still listen to rock and roll, though – even if it is the Devil’s music.

The Exorcist Trailer

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20 comments on “It Came From the ’80s: How ‘The Exorcist’ Corrupted Two Catholic School Girls!

  1. Peter Nielsen Feb 8, 2011

    I couldn’t agree more… THE EXORCIST is one of the scariest movies ever made.

    • Peter– On that point, my friend, we are in total agreement. I saw it on the big screen when they released the director’s cut several years ago, and although I’d seen it 10+ times on the small screen at that point, I actually think it was SCARIER than the first time I saw it. Just something about that forty-foot silver screen that added a whole other layer to the terror, I guess.

  2. Absolutely Superb!! A great write-up of a great movie.

  3. Marybeth Zabora Feb 8, 2011

    I do remember seeing that. I too had only seen parts on TV before and knew the evil was real. I agree about the spider walk, I think that would have sent me over the edge! The green projectile vomiting and head turning completely around were bad enough!
    Great review!

    • Marybeth– Ah, would you be the same MB from Sheri’s sordid, er, I mean squeaky clean past? 😉 I remember when I saw the spider walk scene at the re-release in the theater. It held up REALLY well. Maybe too well!

  4. Great post. The first time I saw The Exorcist was actually in a film class I took in college. I loved it, but at the same time, didn’t feel very frightened. Maybe this was because I watched it in a classroom?

    Oh, and the spider walk? That’s where it’s at.

    • Hi Anthony– Thanks for commenting! It’s funny how often film teachers will show classics with their students crammed into desks, everyone craning their necks to watch cinematic greatness on a 19″ CRT Zenith atop a shaky A/V cart! 🙂 If you ever get a chance to watch it on the big screen, I highly recommend giving it another go as the experience is completely different.

  5. Another great review, Sheri and I remember the first time I saw it (probably about the same age, five or six of us squashed into a mate’s bedroom, watching between fingers) – I’ve seen it a couple of times since (not the spider walk version) and it’s okay, but a lot more talky than I remember.

    I’m really enjoying these reviews, both for the film choices but also for the little autobiographical touches – we had the midnight movie over here too and I loved the idea of watching a horror film then going out at 2am into the dark, dark night.

    • Hi Mark– Welcome! It was a great review. Sheri’s doing an AWESOME job! To your point about the movie, THE EXORCIST is “talky,” and slower paced, but I think that’s indicative of the time when it was made. Personally, I like the “slow burn,” that way, when the terror starts, it really kicks you in the ass! 🙂

      And thanks for the comment about the autobiographical touches. I also like that element and it’s one of the things that I hope sets this site apart. Thanks again!

  6. Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments! I had a lot of fun writing this essay because that night was so much fun. Marybeth – so glad you remember that night. You and I had a lot of fun back in the 80s (and got into a lot of trouble, too!).

    Joel, I also recommend watching it again, this time in a dark room late at night.

    Mark, you’ve always been one of my biggest writing supporters – I really appreciate it!

    • Sheri– You deserve the comments. You’re doing a wonderful job. It’s always great to read of your teenage adventures! 🙂

  7. Oh, I’d never have gotten over seeing The Excorcist in the 80’s if I had – being only a kid back then. It was such an awesome decade though, that I often wonder how much more I would have got out of the 80’s if I had been a teenager back then… That’s why I like reading stories like yours 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting Jim! I’m glad you liked Sheri’s post. The 80s were a great decade to grow up in, especially for the movies! 🙂

  8. OAK DOOR MAN Mar 26, 2012

    Awesome post! I would never watch The Exorcist alone! I can’t even get movie out of my head. It is just way too scary. Your daughter must be very brave!

  9. Cracking film the Exorcist, it was ground breaking when it was 1st released and although a little dated when you watch it now its still brill

    • Hi Danny, It was ground breaking. I re-watched it in a theater about ten or so years ago and thought it was just as creepy/terrifying as it always was. That’s the great thing about well-written movies that deal in deep, thoughtful issues like The Exorcist did– even when the FX show their age, the timeless ideas carry on. Thanks for commenting!

  10. Emily Wienterr Nov 6, 2012

    I’m ONLY 13. I found and watched this film in a dark room alone in my house (bad idea). It was “The Director’s Cut” too… Oh lord it was a good movie! The only thing that scared me was the noise her neck made when it turned and the ‘Spider Walk’ didn’t phase me… But, I must admit I had a few night-terrors and I swore I saw Regan in my bedroom mirror (my wardrobe doors are two giant sliding mirrors)
    It was like Ju-On 1&2 all over again! I still can’t get those ‘Grudge Gurgles’ out of my head.
    Anyways, thanks for reading my rant! Adios

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