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With The Exorcist, Director William Friedkin Fueled Public Paranoia About Subliminal Messages

The Exorcist, Director William Friedkin Fueled Public Paranoia About Subliminal Messages” width=”560″/>

Ever since the 1950s, the public has been wary of subliminal messages in the media. While researchers still struggle to this day to understand whether hidden messages in TV shows, movies, and music lyrics really have an effect on individual behavior, director William Friedkin tapped into public paranoia about mind control with his 1973 film The Exorcist.

The film has no actual subliminal messages (that we know of) and Friedkin never intended to secretly manipulate his audiences; he wanted to awaken their fears of being manipulated. Those brief images that flicker across the screen are intended to be spotted by the naked eye; catching all of them becomes somewhat of a game. Indeed, one fansite has catalogued all the instances, with screen grabs that let viewers know exactly what to look for. Did you see the demon’s face over Ellen Burstyn’s shoulder? Or on the back of Regan’s bedroom door? Now you won’t miss it! Another nod to “subliminal message hysteria” comes via Regan’s tormented moans, which, when played backward, translate as “I am no one.” This was a nod to a growing apprehension of Satanic ideology being mixed into popular music, which could only be heard by playing a record backwards. (The technique’s called “backmasking.”)

The question today is whether The Exorcist is really one of the best horror films of all time or whether it just tricks you into thinking so. Judge for yourself when the film plays tonight on AMC at 1:15AM EST | 12:15AM C. For a full schedule of The Exorcist on AMC, click here.

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