31 Days of Wicked Watching [DAY 20]: You’ll Never See Split Pea Soup the Same Again

There are a lot of people who don’t find this movie scary. In particular, they don’t find this movie scary anymore. For me, I actually didn’t even find the film to be that scary when I first saw it as a wee-little viewer of horror. And, yes, it did take me 20 days to get to this film, which some would argue may just be the best work of horror of all time. Day 20 is dedicated to the ultimate supernatural film, the dynamic dance with the devil and the spider-walk; day 20 is “The Exorcist.”

Linda Blair’s name has become synonymous with the maniacal antics of her youthful, possessed character: Regan. In particular, a few of the scenes and behaviors became iconic elements in themselves: the 360 head turn, the spewing of vomit everywhere, the cross castration and the spider-walk to name a few. I’ve certainly heard a person or two say they’ll knock someone in the head hard enough that their head will spin like Linda Blair’s. And, even though these moments may seem small, they are part of what makes this film so incredibly strong and memorable. It doesn’t have the CGI that were used to, and it isn’t like one of the modern “shit-your-pants” scarefests like “Sinister” or “Insidious,” but it is an icon. And, at the time of its release, it certainly would have given either of those films a run for their money.

What makes this film so brilliant is the sense of disorientation you get throughout. The use of quick cuts, such as the demon face, and the jarring visuals create an unclean environment that shifts the viewer from their normal sense of security, privacy and purity. Even better, you begin to lose all sense of hope as the cast does the same. This film beats you down in ways that many others do not, which ultimately cements it at the top of nearly all horror film fans’ lists of the greats. The use of an exorcism also inspired many other films and film directors and producers. We wouldn’t see many of the supernatural powerhouses that we have today if “The Exorcist” hadn’t broke ground the day after Christmas in 1973.

This film will leave you asking the same question little, 12-year-old Regan does: “what’s wrong with me?” And that line will leave you feeling fearful and unclean for the rest of your day.

Published by Patrick R. Johnson

Patrick is a Ph.D. student and graduate instructor in the SJMC. He comes from nearly a decade of teaching high school journalism and English, and an adjunct professor of journalism and media studies at Marquette University (where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees). He is a former Dow Jones Distinguished National Journalism Teacher of the Year. His research interests include the intersection of news literacy, journalism ethics, journalism studies, and professional boundary work. He also focuses his attention on issues of deviance within the media industry, particularly as it relates to issues of sex and issues resulting in paradigm repair. Patrick is also deeply passionate about teaching and the role of journalism schools in the professionalization of their students. He focuses a lot of his thinking on mass communication and journalism pedagogy and identifying ways for journalism courses to be both rewarding in content and enriching in skill. He currently teaches Journalistic Reporting and Writing in the SJMC and taught a number of courses at Marquette, including Media Ethics, Visual Communication, Magazine Design and Production, Digital Journalism 1-3, Strategic Communication Writing, and the Journalism Capstone course for the department. His work in curriculum, instruction, and educational leadership includes serving as the Journalism Education Association’s Mentor Program Chair, designing curriculum to accompany Pulitzer Prize winning content for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reviewing the Praxis national journalism certification exam, and developing a number of courses at the high school and collegiate levels. Patrick served as a 2021 Public Humanities Intern through the Obermann Center where he worked specifically with University Special Collections to develop public-facing exhibits and curriculum materials related to the Tom Brokaw Collection.

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