? about the famous head spinning shot in 'THE EXORCIST'.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Inspector Hammer!, Feb 21, 2002.

  1. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    This is something that has always bothered me about 'The Exorcist', one of the things that makes this film so terrifying is the fact that everything that happens to Reagan seems almost plausable, and as a result, the film is almost grounded in reality.
    Every cut, scrape, etc could happen to any of us. All of this is what makes the film so real, except one... the famous head spinning scene.
    I have always had a problem with that shot because it seems to go "out of bounds" so to speak in terms of realism, I mean every injury Reagan sustains in the film could and will heal, except that. Her head spinning around would have broken her neck, and when Pazoozoo the demon is cast out, she should have just dropped dead of a broken neck!
    I know that it's the most famous shot in the film, but I wouldn't mind it terribly if that shot was cut out as it always takes me out of the movie a little. It interrupts the flow of realism that the movie establishes for itself up to that point, and just doesn't mesh well with the rest of the film for me.
    Does anyone know what i'm saying here?
     
  2. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    It’s interesting what you say. I never thought of it that way. I think that scene is very terrifying and I believe that we shouldn’t dig too much for reasons and reality if the scene works!
     
  3. Bjorn Olav Nyberg

    Bjorn Olav Nyberg Supporting Actor

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    The only thing that puts me out of the scene is the fact that the rest of the body remains so still, giving away the fact that it is a doll.

    I was actually kind of surprised that I even noticed, because usually when I like a movie and get immersed in it, I can overlook effects even if they tend to be noticeable, but in this case, I really noticed, even the first time I saw the movie. I figured it was partially becase the rest of the effects were really convincing.
     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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  5. Brett_B

    Brett_B Supporting Actor

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  6. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Brett, I understand what your saying, but surly Reagan's body would have still been suseptable to physical injuries, even while the demon was inside her, I mean she still had a spine did she not?
     
  7. Brett_B

    Brett_B Supporting Actor

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    John,

    I agree, but what I am getting at is why try to explain the unexplainable.

    Like I said, how did the words "HELP ME" appear on her stomach? I took that scene to mean that Reagan was "somewhere" in the body. Where exactly, I haven't the slightest clue and that is not the point.

    You are tyring to get an explanation about the injuries resulting from the demonic possession as if there is a plausible explanation, yet all of the other unexplainable occurances are dismissed as being a result of the possession.
     
  8. WoodyH

    WoodyH Stunt Coordinator

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    I've had the same problem with the Exorcist also, actually. Whether or not you believe in posessions, supernatural events, or the like, just about everything that happens in that film is something that could conceivably happen via the intervention of supernatural forces. Accounts from people who believe of 'ghosts' or 'poltergeists' being able to move things (hence the flying objects, stopped clock, and Vibro-Bed (TM)). I can even accept the 'HELP ME' message (as for how they appeared, completely off the top of my head, sores can develop on the body quite easily, and there have been instances of psychosomatic cures - why not a psychosomatic illness created by the trapped conciousness/personality of Reagan? Yes, I'm reaching. [​IMG]) The point is, given the supernatural nature of the film, all those events are plausible in a real-world scenario.
    However, the head-spinning just doesn't work for me - there are too many physical impossibilities as opposed to improbabilities. The spine would snap, as has been mentioned. Assuming that there was some way that the vertabrae seperated enough to allow one to make a 360 degree rotation above the other, you've still got to deal with the spinal cord and all the other material of the neck (muscles, blood vessels, skin, etc.) stretching and twisting around. Her neck should have compressed to be about half the diameter that it started as (incidentally, cutting off all blood and oxygen flow, assuming it could make the full rotation once the vertabrae had been seperated), and then would have had to have rotated back around afterwards.
    I'm very much with John on this one. I can suspend my disbelief, enter the world of the film, and accept what I see for everything in this movie except the head spinning. Just goes too far for me to be able to accept.
     
  9. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

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    One might also wonder if the girl's vocal chords would be permanently damaged or stretched a couple of octaves after all that demonic abuse.

    Maybe the actual head-turning was more of an illusion, a visual trick played by the demon on the minds of her mother and Karras.
     
  10. Brett_B

    Brett_B Supporting Actor

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  11. Brett_B

    Brett_B Supporting Actor

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  12. WoodyH

    WoodyH Stunt Coordinator

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  13. Brett_B

    Brett_B Supporting Actor

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    WoodyH Stunt Coordinator

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  15. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I agree that it was an illusion.
    It would have definately KILLED her like that, but the demon obviously needed to keep the body alive to continue the possesion.
    If all else fails...just say this:
    "It's just a movie and I really should relax."
    [​IMG]
     
  16. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Come on guys, we're talking about a movie where a little girl is possessed by the devil, not pretending to be possessed but really possessed by Satan, she even levitates 10 feet in the air, forms words on her stomach, so I would say a spinning head wouldn't be that strange, hell she could have torn her head off and thrown it at the priest and audiences of that time would have still screamed in horror (I'll probably be busy laughing my ass off but thats me).[​IMG]
     
  17. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    Interesting you should bring this up, John. I used to own the book, "The Making of The Exorcist," which was written by Blatty, and I distinctly remember him saying he had a debate with William Friedkin about her head spinning all the way around during the exorcism. Not backwards, which was in the book, but all the way around. I'm quoting from memory here: "Surely it would fall off." He said that Friedkin re-edited the scene slightly so that her head doesn't go quite 360 degrees. Doesn't look like that to me.
    BTW, the "Help me" on the skin is entirely plausible. The acting teacher Eric Morris can make a red mark appear on his arm simply by going through a "sense memory" excercise to recall when he burned it. A video of the "exorcism" of a man who was supposedly possessed but who was probably only crazy (we'll never know -- he blew his brains out years later, but his sister doesn't believe he was possessed) showed red crosses appearing all over his back, not as welts, but red marks under the skin.
    But then, if a demon can make a bureau and dishes fly across the room by himself, or a little girl float up in the air, I don't see why he couldn't make her neck a little more flexible than normal [​IMG]
     
  18. Anthony R

    Anthony R Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, what he did exactly was to re-edit the scene so that there is a quick cut to Karras' face in the middle of the 360-degree spin. So, we don't actually see it going all the way around in one take-- which I suppose is at least slightly better. I do agree that the 360-degree turn was a bit excessive, but I thought the 180-degree turn during the crucifix scene was very well done because it was so brief and unexpected.

    Anthony
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  20. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Robert, I think you may be confusing it with another scene, Father Karras was indeed in the room during the head spin. The camera is on Reagan as the spin starts, then they cut to a close up of Karras' face looking on in horror, then back to Reagan's head completing the spin, then finally back to Karras saying "Amen".
    I'm willing to accept the illusion theory, even though the film never gives any clues to that at all. My problem with that theory is that the film presents the shot in a very straight forward way, eluding to the fact that it is actually happening.
    My whole point in this thread was not to try and explain that shot, but to merly state that I find it unrealistic in relation to the rest of the film, and that it really could do without it IMO.
     

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