The Exorcist (1973) Ending Explained – Does Karras’ sacrifice have a hidden meaning?

The Exorcist

The Exorcist Plot Synopsis

The easy-going life of an actress, Chris MacNeil, takes a horrific turn after her 12-year-old daughter, Regan, is possessed by an unassailable demonic force. Two experienced priests, Damien Karras and Lankester Merrin are summoned to rescue the little girl.

However, as the priests begin the exorcism, the demon reaches the peak of its powers.

When is Regan possessed?

Chris is working on a movie – being directed by her friend, Burke Dennings. For the duration of production, she is living in a new house with her daughter and servants. They appear to be having a swell time. However, soon situations change for the worse.

Strange noises can be heard coming from the attic. But, Regan tells that it’s her imaginary friend, Captain Howdy. It’s not long before sweet Regan turns horribly eerie.

What is Karras going through?

Damien Karras is facing a crisis of faith – as to he is not sure whether it’s right for him to counsel other priests. He regrets not being there for his mother when she passed away. In his nightmares, he sees his mother, a St. Joseph Medallion, and a demonic face. It can be inferred he is bothered by the thought of his mother suffering in hell after death.

Regan’s situation worsens

During a party hosted by Chris, Regan pees in front of the guests. After Chris tucks her in, her bed judders as if by some invisible force. Regan gets highly unpredictable. During one of her medical tests, she uses very offensive language fluently in a way that can never be associated with a 12-year-old.

Her appearance grows weirdly pale, and her behaviour becomes increasingly violent.

What happens next?

The dead body of Dennings is discovered beneath Regan’s window, and police suspect some kind of supernatural involvement as the head was turned backwards. Aware it’s Regan who murdered Dennings, Chris reaches out to Karras to conduct an exorcism.

However, Karras wants to see the victim first in order to determine whether or not he needs to perform the process. During Karras’ two visits, Regan exhibits indomitable strength and shows every sign of being possessed by a demon. She uses unspeakable words for Karras. When Karras sprinkles holy water on her, it appears as though her aggression is wringing her out.

Convinced this is no ordinary case, Karras asks his superior to warrant the exorcism of Regan. He gets permission on the condition that exorcism will be carried out by an experienced priest – while he assists. That’s when father Lankester Merrin is summoned.

What happens during the exorcism?

Merrin and Karras start reading the holy text from Roman Ritual. The demon cusses the priests – and takes aim at Karras’ dead mother in particular. The demon briefly takes the form of Karras’ mother – something he can’t tolerate. He steps outside the room, and Merrin continues the process by himself.

When Karras re-enters, he is shocked to find Merrin dead. He thuds on Merrin’s chest trying to revive him. Eventually, in a fit of rage, he starts beating Regan.

Eventually, aware the demon won’t leave Regan without killing her, Karras demands that the demon possess him instead. Within moments, Regan is freed, and Karras is captured. In the next scene, Karras jumps out the window and rolls down the stairs.

In the end, Regan is healed and Karras is dead.

Does Karras’ sacrifice have a hidden meaning?

It’s easy to notice Karras sacrificed his life for Regan. But did you spot a different aspect of the priest’s sacrifice? All along, the devil tries to convince Damien that his mother is in hell after death where there is nothing but suffering. Damien Karras also sees his mother during the exorcism.

Heavily burdened with the guilt of abandoning his mother, it’s possible that he fell for the psychological trickery applied by the demon. The sacrifice he made was probably both to save Regan and to meet his mother.

Side Information: The Extended Director’s Cut of The Exorcist was released in 2000 – in which the ending was a bit extended, and it’s well worth a watch!

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