To this day The Exorcist stands as one of the most horrifying movies ever made, a legendary cinematic venture that graphically portrays an epic struggle between human lives and demonic forces. Adapted from William Peter Blatty’s best-selling 1971 novel of the same name, the film was released by Warner Brothers on December 26, 1973 and immediately played to packed movie theaters across the country. The ensuing media blitz focused its attention on both the movie’s hard-to-stomach scenes that depicted a child possessed by the devil and the fact that author Blatty had based the story on a supposedly real event that took place in the Washington, D.C. area back in 1949. The film was nominated in 1974 for ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and was the recipient of two: “Best Screenplay Based On Material From Another Medium”—William Peter Blatty, and “Best Sound”—Robert Knudson and Chris Newman. The Exorcist has retained a faithful following since its debut and to date has grossed over $165 million (making it the thirteenth top grossing film of all time), with video sales and rentals still bringing home healthy sums.
Karras: Hello, Regan. I’m a friend of your mothers. I’d like to help you.
Regan: Why not loosen the straps then?
Karras: I’m afraid you might hurt yourself, Regan.
Regan: I’m not Regan.
Karras: I see. Well then, let’s introduce ourselves. I’m Damien Karras.
Regan: I’m the devil. Now kindly undo these straps!
Karras: If you’re the devil, why not make the straps disappear?
Regan: That’s much too vulgar a display of power, Karras.
Karras: Where’s Regan?
Regan: In here – with us.
Karras: Show me Regan and I’ll loosen one of the straps.
Regan: Can you help an old altar boy, Father?… Your mother’s in here with us, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it.
Karras: If that’s true, then you must know my mother’s maiden name. What is it? What is it?
[Regan vomits onto Karras]
Every genre has definitive works that set a standard. For twenty first century horror, The Exorcist is one of these definitive works. Anyone who enjoyed the movie should take the time to read the book which preceded it. The depth of the novel surpasses the film. The story line goes further, has more characters and sheds light on some things missing from the screenplay. This is not at all unusual, the books are usually more thorough.
So, what can be said about William Peter Blatty’s novel of a demon possessed girl? The story is disturbing and stays with you after you’re finished. Isn’t that what we look for in a horror novel? If it has a shocking impact, then the writer has done their job and done it well. Blatty does that with The Exorcist and does it very well.
The characters are very well developed, better than the movie. Father Damien Karris, battling his crisis of faith and loss of his mother makes him an excellent choice of a flawed yet likeable character. Blatty shows his knowledge of psychology along the way in the development of each character and in the techniques used to determine what could possibly be wrong with this child.
The tale is tautly plotted, well told and plain scary. It exploits the zeitgeist alright taking common ideas and running with them: the notion of being taken over, obsessed – and you can see this as metaphor, symbol or just the ‘plain and simple truth’; of the exorcism of a young, just pubertal girl ; and it tells her story, in parallel with the crisis in the life of Father Dimi Karras, the Exorcist’s assistant. He helps as Father Merrin, the Exorcist himself, is pulled inexorably from his search among ruins in Mesopotamia in an only seemingly tangential beginning, to wrestle with Satan over the soul of this innocent girl, daughter of a single parent, in prosperous Washington D.C..
Many consider this to be the scariest novel ever written. If it’s not, then it certainly among the scariest. It definitely grabs the reader. I was unable to stop reading until I reached the last page. At that point. I wanted more. It was one of those books you don’t want to end.
What’s your name?
If you’re looking for an outstanding horror novel to read, look no further than the exorcist. Beyond just being a clasic, this is one of those near perfect novels that you won’t be able put down, guaranteed to keep you awake and reading well into the night. And the supernatural aspects are appropriately scatological and psychologically plausible – whether you have Faith or not, this is one disturbing, thrilling book. It scared me then and scares me now. To quote a French lady whose name I never remember, “I don’t believe in ghosts but I’d be terrified to see one.