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(Credit: Guillem Medina)

The film that terrified 'Exorcist' director William Friedkin

There are few horror classics, let alone films in general, that last the longevity of time and rear their head on an annual basis to be celebrated and revered. However, ever since the release of William Friedkin’s classic, The Exorcistin 1973, audiences have been petrified of the film’s enduring passion for ghastly, graphic horror. 

Having never set out to make a horror film, director William Friedkin has long argued against such pigeonholing, with Friedkin telling Cinephilia and Beyond: “We thought of it as a powerful, emotional, disturbing story. But we did not think of it in terms of a horror film, let alone a classic horror film, or a lot of the stuff that passes for horror films”.

Continuing, the director went on to explain just why The Exorcist remains such a pertinent and fearful tale, explaining: “Well, why bad things happen to good people. An innocent 12-year-old girl, who goes through extraordinary symptoms that clearly represent a disease that medical science is unable to deal with. That’s extremely disturbing to people”.

Having also directed The French Connection, The Boys in the Band and Killer Joe, William Friedkin is a seasoned Hollywood director capable of telling a wide variety of hard-hitting tales that often have one foot inside the terrors of reality. A keen presence on social media, Friedkin regularly comments on the state of modern horror cinema, stating in 2016, for example, that Hush, directed by Mike Flanagan, was “a great horror film”. 

It was on November 30th, 2014, however, that William Friedkin would make one of his most divisive tweets, explaining on his social media page, “PsychoAlienDiabolique, and now The Babadook“. Elaborating on this rather ambiguous tweet, Friedkin then replied to his previous comment, stating: “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me”.

Making reference to Jennifer Kent’s 2014 contemporary horror classic helped to significantly elevate The Babadook’s status, going on to become a modest box office hit and critical darling. Kent’s fairytale-gone-wrong follows a single mother’s journey into despair whilst taking care of her autistic child when a mysterious, insidious book appears in her house, joined by a malevolent demon.

Terror lingers and builds to insurmountable dread in this terrific debut feature utilising simple monster production design and practical effects to punctuate a story which, much like William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, is really a tale of the horrors of deep-seated grief and mourning. Having since gone on to create the disturbing adventure thriller The Nightingale, starring Aisling Franciosi and Sam Clafin, Jennifer Kent is quickly becoming a pioneer of the horror-thriller genre, particularly as a rare female voice.

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