The Scariest Movie Of All Time Could Never Be Made Today

Director William Friedkin passed away earlier this month, but his legacy in film lives on. With a career spanning over 50 years and multiple Academy Awards, his movies re-defined more than one film genre. Yet his films are so enduring — so threatening to a Hollywood liberalism obsessed with ideological purity— that they could never be made today. Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” is terrifying and iconic, but its deeper themes often get overlooked as a mainstay of American pop culture.

Friedkin’s first breakthrough film was “The French Connection” (1971), which took home the Oscar for Best Picture. The gritty, detective thriller — where morality dictates a cop must go outside the law to fight crime — laid the foundation for countless crime films today. Street-level realism, the anti-hero cop, the explosive car chase — all pioneered by Friedkin. It comes as no surprise that the film, once praised for its realism, was recently sanitized by Disney to appease “modern audiences.”

Yet ask any member of modern audiences fifty years on, and many are unlikely to have ever even heard of the film. Alternatively, ask a crowd how many have seen “The Exorcist” (1973), and all but a few hands are sure to go up. While it received mixed reviews at the time, it went on to become one of the greatest masterpieces in Hollywood history. (RELATED: The Utter Absurdity Of Hollywood’s Latest LGBT Propaganda Film)

Over the generations, “The Exorcist” has left an indelible mark on American film lore. It has brought about countless spin-offs, rip-offs and parodies — the true hallmark of pop culture success. The 180-degree head spin, the demonic vomiting and, of course, the reverse spider-walk — all became fixtures in the horror genre and have been permanently seared in America’s consciousness.

Friedkin not only created the possession thriller. He redefined the horror genre all together. Before “The Exorcist,” few horror movies could claim the respectability that came with 10 Oscar nominations (and 2 wins). The film kept horror alive as a serious form of art as decades of slasher films embraced sensationalized smut and depravity. It paved the way for thought-provoking terror — from the obvious rip-off “The Omen” (1976) to “Silence of the Lambs” (1991) and even “Get Out” (2016), all Oscar winners over the years. Rejecting slasher-style sensationalism, Friedkin crafted a stimulating drama that contemplates how to fight a timeless evil in the modern era.

At face value as a horror movie, the film still holds up. It remains genuinely terrifying, both in its special effects and the absence of hope it portrays in a life without faith.

For those who live under a rock, the film follows single mother Chris MacNeil, her demonically possessed daughter Regan and the psychiatrist-priest Father Karras, who must save them when all else fails. A famous actress, Chris is a decadent atheist who exhausts all medical means to cure her daughter before turning to Catholic exorcism. Out of desperation, she turns to a man struggling with his own doubts as he straddles the secular and religious worlds.

At its core, it is a movie about faith and reason, religion and science. Friedkin creates these juxtapositions purposefully to show there are limits to what materialism can explain. Only when she accepts the limitations of modern science can Chris find salvation for Regan. Father Karras can finally save her only when he rejects doubt and wills the demon to “come into [him].” As Friedkin himself said in an interview, he could not have made the film if he did not “strongly believe in the teachings of Jesus.”

But this is not a cheesy religious movie. Rather, in Father Karras, Friedkin tells us there is a time and a place for both science and religion. They are not mutually exclusive, but complementary; both are required to understand the world. Only with his knowledge of the city of man could Karras be sure that the evil he faced came from the city of God.  (RELATED: Looking Back At The War Movie The Left Never Wanted You To See)

This, more than any special effect is what is truly terrifying to “modern audiences.” Acknowledging that science has its limitations is terrifying to those who “Trust the Science” with religious zeal. Worse, acknowledging that traditional religion can answer some of the questions that science cannot challenges their view of science as the successor to faith; it undermines the legitimacy of the entire project of modernity. To an elite who wants total control over the material world with no regard for the spiritual, such heresy cannot be permitted.

Today’s secular liberalism views religion as a vestige of man’s ignorance, responsible for all the evils of the world; science is the light that will guide us out. It makes science itself a religion — a perversion of both realms, where moral claims become obscured. It is no longer a question of what we should do, but what we can do.

The most shocking moment for the original audience was not anything the demon did to Regan — it was the test the doctors performed on her in the hospital that caused blood to squirt from her neck. It is worth remembering that great evil has been committed in the name of science, too. Scientists can be just as terrifying as demons.