Klemesrud, Judy. "They wait hours--to be shocked." New York Times on the Web 27 Jan 1974.
University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia 9 May 2008.
This is a NY Times article written about a month after The Exorcist was released in theatres. Klemesrud stood in a massively long line, interviewing ticketholders and employees at Manhattan’s Cinema I complex. She found out that previous moviegoers had not only vomited, but also hurriedly left, fainted, screamed, endured heart attacks—and one even reportedly had a miscarriage due to the horrific scenes.
Many people waited for up to twelve hours to be able to see how the impossible would be represented on screen. The crowds wanted to see flying objects, spinning heads, levitation, and not to mention the morbid scenes capturing blood, vomit, guts, and gore. Several fans wondered if parts of the book would actually be represented in the film—such as the taboo masturbation-with-the-cross incident and gratuitous language use, among other possibilities.
Some of the interviewees were seeing the movie for the third or fourth time. In fact, one reported feeling “contaminated” when they left the theatre, unable to get rid of the images and feelings aroused during previous views. Even though he had been having terrifying dreams ever since, he still wanted to see it again because of its extreme shock factor.
People leaving the theatre commented on how accurate the film was in comparison to the book, and remarked how “there’s nothing else like it”. Klemesrud goes on to quote a Chicago newspaper, which reported a psychiatric hospital admitting six people who had seen the film.
In considering this historical report, The Exorcist seems to have realistically transmitted a sense of fear and threat; so much so that it managed to provoke all of these reactions and predicaments among its viewers. It can be inferred that the cinematic techniques employed throughout the film played a large role in bringing about these truly terrifying sentiments. Had these special effects not been believable and successful in capturing people’s greatest fears, the film would not have been enjoying so much box office prosperity.