William Peter Blatty’s, The Exorcist scared the hell out of Americans. The images of young Regan portrayed by Linda Blair shocked and disturbed filmgoers. Lines at the box office often went for blocks. This movie would usher in a monster that most of society is familiar with: The Devil, Satan, Lucifer...the Fallen Angel.
For much of the Seventies, possession, cults, and the antichrist would make a claim on the soul of horror. This would also signal a profound shift in the genre from the rubber and latex creations that had been frightening audiences for the past few decades.
Many fans of horror were growing disenchanted. At age eleven, I was amongst that number. While Regan had indeed terrified me, I didn’t think of the Devil as a proper monster. Besides, it was difficult to be frightened of an entity that not only did my church tell me every Sunday was powerless as long as I believed in God; but was portrayed by Flip Wilson as merely having the ability to make Geraldine wear unflattering dresses.
It wasn’t Satan who proved to be scary. Instead, it was his assortment of servants and minions who would begin to affect a change in the horror genre and endanger “the monster” as a movie staple.
Race with the Devil would perpetuate the idea that you needn’t worry about Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, or Bigfoot. The monster proved to be Middle America, where, apparently everybody worships Satan while performing nightly moonlight sacrifices of nubile young virgins. To put an exclamation on their monster worthiness, the Satanists nail Loretta Switt’s little dog to the door of the RV. The seal was officially broken. The monster under the bed was no longer as scary as my next-door neighbor.