Scott Marks 9 a.m., Dec. 18
Just because the filmmakers do not trouble to work out one interesting development of character, situation, or metaphysics, is no excuse for the viewer to sit back, dull. And it is to the film's credit that there are so many teasing possibilities to pursue privately in this horror story, at once pretentious and lowbrow, about an agnostic, athletic priest-psychiatrist and a firm-of-faith, feeble-of-body medievalist who join forces against the demon that has entered the body of a Hollywood movie star's darling daughter. For a while, at the start, the movie maintains an appealing state of chaos, with its jarring noises, everywhere menaces, unidentified characters, and fragments of banal nastiness. But once the demon takes charge of the little girl, Regan, and the special effects take charge of the movie, the action becomes as routine as if it were dispensed by the American Vending Corp. Every time someone enters little Regan's door, it is like a coin going into the slot, and out comes a treat -- a sock in the jaw, a cyclone of 45 rpm's, a shower of guacamole vomit, masturbation with a crucifix, etc. This girl knows lots of tricks. Linda Blair owes her Oscar nomination to the makeup man and Mercedes McCambridge's dubbing -- she can't act, can't sing, can't dance, but she can piss, can puke, can levitate. Based on William Petey Bladder's novel; directed by William Friedkin. 1973.