Skip

How did the demon possess Regain in the first place in the Exorcist?
February 14, 2008 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Why did Regan get possessed in the Exorcist?

I saw this terrifying but excellent film for the first time last night. But I didn't really understand why exactly Regan got possessed in the first place. I know the statue was discovered in Iraq, and there was that relic that Father Merrin found. But how did these things affect a little girl in Georgetown? (If that's what happened.)

It was kind of traumatic, so I don't want to watch it again. Nor do I really want to read the novel, for the same reason. But I NEED to know if there was some reasoning for how the demon got access to this American girl across the world.

(Yes I know this is kind of a waste of a question, but it's killing me and I can't find the answer anywhere.)
posted by visual mechanic to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ouija board.
posted by Wavelet at 8:39 PM on February 14, 2008


There was a demon living the the attic above her room.

I don't know if there was any specific reason, just wrong place at the wrong time.

Wasn't Regan drawing an image of the statue, which evidenced that she was possessed rather than ill in some way that makes your head twist all the way 'round.

Was is a Ouija board? It's been a while since I seen it.
posted by mattoxic at 8:49 PM on February 14, 2008


Ouija board. A demon named "Pazuzu" contacted her using the name "Captain Howdy." Presumably, by befriending Pazuzu via the Oija board, Regan gave the devil (who is actually identified at one point as being The Devil) the ability to possess her. The mechanism is never explained.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:54 PM on February 14, 2008


But I NEED to know if there was some reasoning for how the demon got access to this American girl across the world.

"Why" and "how" are two different questions (and you asked both!). I think the "how" is basically through the ouija board. The "why" is more complicated, and thematically really important to the film, and unfortunately I can't find a transcript of this scene at the moment (which is not in the original version), but this summary will do:

The film's message of faith is made clear during a break in the exorcism where Karras and Merrin sit restfully on the hallway steps (this scene can also be seen in the video/DVD version). Initially, it was a moment of silent glances between the two men. Now there is a dialogue exchange where Karras asks Merrin why this girl had to be possessed. Merrin responds that the idea is to make them despair - to make them appear as animalistic and ugly, and to reject the possibility that God loves humanity. This philosophical passage also makes us understand that the Devil's target is not Regan, it is the priests.

In short, though I'm not sure it's explicitly stated in the movie, I think the idea is that the demon possessed a little girl in Georgetown because that's where the priests it wanted to get were. Merrin (Max Von Sydow) had expelled the demon in exorcism decades previous; when he finds the relic of Pazuzu in Iraq, it's basically an omen/foreshadowing. The demon wasn't physically in Iraq, or at least not confined to Iraq: it's a spirit; it's everywhere.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:55 PM on February 14, 2008


I did ask why and how. What I do mean is the "how." I think I'm about 70% convinced that it's simply the Quiji board. But how come that relic was at the bottom of the stairs to M street when Burke died? And who desecrated the virgin Mary in the church?
posted by visual mechanic at 9:27 PM on February 14, 2008


In short, though I'm not sure it's explicitly stated in the movie, I think the idea is that the demon possessed a little girl in Georgetown because that's where the priests it wanted to get were.

That's basically how I interpreted it. That particular demon had a long-running battle with Father Merrin, and used the entire exercise to finally kill him.
posted by gsteff at 10:25 PM on February 14, 2008


I'd like to say that you could find out the answer to this, and many other Exorcist questions, by watching the prequels: Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist. (The two films are essentially different versions of the same script, as this IGN article explains.)

Unfortunately the films don't really shed a great deal of light. The backstory involves an evil buried deep underground in an ancient church in Africa, plus some Holocaust guilt, and a conflict over whether or not to face evil. Father Merrin is definitely put at the centre of it all.
posted by skylar at 2:19 AM on February 15, 2008


And who desecrated the virgin Mary in the church?

I am fairly certain that was done by an undeveloped plot device; I can't find a copy of the book to double-check but I think it's equally vague there. The point, I think, was either that this was bigger than just Regan, who couldn't have done it, or that the demon might have been victim-shopping, or it was just supposed to give Det. Kinderman a better excuse for his "rogue priest" scenario so he'd have a reason to talk to Father Karras.

Alternate theory: Karras did it, knowingly or not. The demon wanted his showdown there in Georgetown (because the author lived there, but that's not a very good reason), and Merrin was on retreat in upstate New York. Karras was chosen as the go-between because of his crisis of faith and geographical location, and the demon needed something really big and nasty to get the plot moving, but having even a fictional priest do something like that wasn't going to fly in print, and so it's left very vague.

It's possible that this point is cleared up in one of the subsequent books or screenplays, I can't remember anymore.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:18 AM on February 15, 2008


Messing with ouija boards and such opens up doors to demonic oppression in general, so perhaps for the movie that was assumed knowledge.
posted by konolia at 5:47 AM on February 15, 2008


And who desecrated the virgin Mary in the church?

I am fairly certain that was done by an undeveloped plot device; I can't find a copy of the book to double-check but I think it's equally vague there. The point, I think, was either that this was bigger than just Regan, who couldn't have done it, or that the demon might have been victim-shopping, or it was just supposed to give Det. Kinderman a better excuse for his "rogue priest" scenario so he'd have a reason to talk to Father Karras.


I'm pretty sure it was Regan. I don't think this is ever clarified in the movie per se, but I seem to remember either Friedkin or Blatty mentioning it off-handedly in some commentary track or interview or...um...something. Pazuzu could have possessed someone else (although I doubt that someone would have been Karras; that the demon could not possess Karras, at least not without his consent, seems pretty crucial to the whole film), but that's a lot to infer. There isn't any particular reason it couldn't have been Regan -- it's not as though she couldn't have sneaked out of the house.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:21 AM on February 15, 2008


It's popular teaching in conservative Christian circles (or, at least, it was when I was a teen) that Ouija board use can makes a person vulnerable to possession by the spirits that are being contacted. See this page, for instance. I don't know whether this idea precedes the Exorcist, which incorporated it into the plot, or whether it only came out because of the Exorcist. But the idea as I encountered it is either that (1) all the spirits one contacts through the Ouija board are evil or (2) a sufficient number of them are evil to make it likely that you're going to interact with a bad one. Apparently, using the board successfully to communicate with a spirit opens a pathway that allows that same Spirit to possess you. I was warned as a kid to always, always, always avoid Ouija board because I could wind up possessed. (Obviously thousands of teens do use the board with no signs of possession, unless they are usually possessed by demons of Lust, Illiteracy and Vapid Consumerism. Which I suppose is possible).

At any rate, that seems to be the thinking underlying Regan's possession--that even the innocent can be possessed if they tinker with spiritual forces.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:42 AM on February 15, 2008


And this story from a Catholic source is claimed to be an a case of actual possession because of a Ouija board, and is supposedly the story that inspired the Exorcist.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:52 AM on February 15, 2008


A longer article about the case that inspired the film. The author makes a pretty good case for the kid in question having been a troubled attention seeker, but You Never Know.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:07 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


To find the real answer, you'll need to watch the sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:08 PM on February 15, 2008


*flags preceding comment*
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:09 PM on February 15, 2008


« Older Does it sound like this guy is...   |  Where can I find a free, vecto... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post