Next week the scariest film of 2018 will be released in UK cinemas. After shocking people at Sundance, Hereditary has been described as ‘emotional terrorism‘ and one of the stars has claimed he suffered PTSD from some of the scenes he filmed.
“An insidious soundscape of tension and terror” – Birth.Movies.Death
“The singularly most terrifying horror film in years” – The Independent
“Family horror tale is the scariest movie of 2018” – Rolling Stone
The reviews circulating have already defined this as the most horrifying film of the year, and, some say, for years to come. In anticipation of this film, let’s take a look at the most infamous horror film ever made – a horror film that was banned in some cinemas and video release, a horror film that terrified audience members to the point of collapse, and a horror film rumoured for decades to have a cursed set, resulting in mysterious deaths of the production team. Let’s look at the legacy of The Exorcist.
At its initial release in cinemas in 1973, footage of audience members running out of the theatre in hysterics spread the news that the film had a strong hold over the public’s fear. Cases were printed of people fainting, vomiting and suffering heart attacks while watching the film. Some local authorities banned the film from being shown in their district due to pressure from public groups who found the film abhorrant and blasphemous.
The film was shown in cinemas with the certificate X, the highest restriction, and the video release was given the same certificate but, with the introduction of the Video Recordings Act (VRA) in 1984, the video was taken off the shelves for eleven years – seven years after being released for home viewing. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) had been pressured by the VRA to review the films available and conclude whether the original certification was appropriate, but their issue with The Exorcist was that the lead star was a 12-year-old girl, and may attract a younger audience for that fact. With home viewing harder to regulate its viewers than a cinema, and reports of hysteria in young female viewers, it was deemed safer to remove the film from sale all together.
Alongside the reactions of the public, stories of the set being cursed added to the film’s reputation. Up to nine people on the team died, Ellen Burstyn suffered a serious spinal injury when a stunt went wrong, the set blazed in mysterious fires and other bizarre events around the film’s release made the demonic presence in the film seem much more real and imminent.
In the 90s, the film was relaunched into cinemas with a minor adjustment to the credits, and submitted for re-classification, labelling it an 18 and the most reputable horror film in history.