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Archive for the ‘The Exorcist’ Category

Dear Dad,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. I hope you are doing well.

Halloween is this weekend so there are lots of scary movies on TV and in the theaters. They remind me of Saturday nights when we lived in Rockford, Ill.

Remember how the whole family would sit on the family room sofa in front of the TV? We’d turn out the lights so the room would be pitch black when we watched “Creature Features.” It was fun and scary at the same time.

One night we were watching The Mummy and during a commercial you left to use the bathroom. When you walked menacingly back into the room, we saw that you had wrapped toilet paper around your head and arms, just like the mummy.

You startled us, but then we laughed. We weren’t afraid any more. Thanks, Dad.

Of course some horror films are so predictable, you can’t help but laugh. “Don’t go in there,” we’d yell, but it was too late. Whatever was waiting inside that dark room would soon make its presence known.

The films that scared me the most were those based upon a realistic premise, especially pseudo-religious films like The Omen and The Exorcist.

When I was finally old enough to watch these films on my own VCR, I got so wrapped up in the films’ pageantry of ancient rituals that I had to repeat “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”

The ExorcistThe Exorcist begins in Northern Iraq where Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is leading an archeological dig for religious relics. He finds a modern-day St. Joseph medal near a small statue of the demon Pazuzu, an ancient Sumerian demigod.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Washington, DC, Father Karras (Jason Miller) is battling a crisis of faith in the wake of his mother’s death.

Nearby in the quiet suburb of Georgetown, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) acts in a film during the day and returns to her rented condo and daughter Regan (Linda Blair) at night. When Regan becomes ill and then psychologically disturbed, Chris contacts Father Karras for help.

After a number of interviews and extraordinary events, Father Karras believes the girl is possessed and petitions the bishop for permission to perform an exorcism. The bishop sends in the experienced Father Merrin, along with Father Karras, to heal the young girl.

According to our cathechism, exorcism, in its simple form, “is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called ‘a major exorcism,’ can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church.” (Ch. 4, Art. 1, #1673 – Cathechism of the Catholic Church, USCCB)

Decades later, the film continues to thrill and frighten viewers. In its archive of film reviews, the film, the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the USCCB states: “Directed by William Friedkin, the movie is on shaky ground theologically and its special effects are horrific but the result is an exciting horror fantasy for those with strong stomachs. Its graphic violence, obscene references and foul language make it strictly adult fare. (A-IV)

Dad, when I was a seminarian at Mundelein, I heard stories about The Exorcist. Author William Peter Blatty visited campus many times, using the vast library resources to research his novel. According to the tales, while he was reading about the rites of exorcism, books fell off shelves when no one was around; gusts of wind blew past him when no windows were open. Could those tales be true?

My favorite scary movies are the ones about the afterlife – movies like Ghost, The Frighteners, The Sixth Sense. Is it possible that our human senses cannot perceive the dimension in which spirits walk among us on earth? We can’t see radio waves or cellular phone signals, but they real, crisscrossing the air all around us.

What if I could see those radio waves? Would I be able to see you Dad? It’s been four years since you left us and I still dream about you. Once I woke up hearing your voice, asking me to take care of Mom.

Were you next to me when you spoke? Is that state halfway between sleep and full consciousness a doorway to where you are?

You could be here in the same room with me right now, checking in before you go back to sit with Mom. Somehow it’s comforting and I’m not afraid any more.

Dad, do you want to watch a movie?

CF
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First published in the October 30, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2009 Christopher Fenoglio

Christopher Fenoglio lives at the end of a dark, dead-end street in the sleepy community of Bellevue near Nashville. Comment on this or other posts now – if you dare.

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