Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty


The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty


Four decades after it first shook the nation, then the world, William Peter Blatty's thrilling masterwork of faith and demonic possession returns in an even more powerful form. Raw and profane, shocking and blood-chilling, it remains a modern parable of good and evil and perhaps the most terrifying novel ever written.


Review: The Exorcist is advertised as the scariest book of all time. I didn’t think I could call myself a true horror junkie until I had read it.

The story follows two main characters: Chris McNeal, an actress and mother; and Damien Karras, a priest who’s reconsidering his decision to become a priest. One day, Chris’s daughter, Regan, gets sick and starts acting strangely. Doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. The mystery disease becomes so bad that Regan has to be strapped to a bed to keep from hurting herself or anybody else. Suspecting that Regan is possessed by a demon, Chris goes to Karras for help.

I love horror because it’s not really about monsters (or demons). Those things are just representations of society’s worries. Deep down, The Exorcist is about the fear of losing control. The demon takes over Regan’s body and uses it to humiliate her and to hurt people. Regan has no control of the creature inside her. The story is also about the fear of powerlessness. Chris tries everything to save her daughter. She becomes increasingly frantic as she runs out of options. Chris can only watch as the demon slowly kills Regan. That’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The Exorcist is probably considered one of the scariest books of all time because it taps into many of our most primal fears.  

“The demon's target is not the possessed; it is us the observers . . . everyone in this house. I think the point is to make us despair . . . to reject our humanity: to see ourselves as ultimately bestial, vile and putrescent; without dignity; ugly; unworthy.” – The Exorcist

If you’re squeamish or easily offended, then you need to stay far away from this book. It’s disgusting. There’s green vomit, diarrhea, and many inappropriate sexy times. Lots of cussing too. You’ll need a strong stomach for this one. The gross stuff is even grosser because a lot of it comes from a twelve-year-old child. I know that twelve-year-olds can be interested in sex (especially when they’re possessed by demons, I guess), but still, yuck.

“[Regan] advised me to keep my fingers away from her goddamned cunt.” – The Exorcist

What surprised me about The Exorcist is that most of it doesn’t focus on the exorcism itself. The exorcism is only a small part of the story and happens in the last few chapters. Most of the book is about the process of getting permission to do an exorcism. Since I’m fascinated by religion, I love this aspect of the story. It’s interesting to see all the steps that Chris and Karras have to go through to prove that Regan is possessed. It’s not easy to get permission for an exorcism. If permission is granted, the exorcism may not even work. The suspense in this story comes from wondering if Regan will be saved or not. The author keeps us guessing until the very end.

Karras is my favorite character because he’s complex, but I wasn’t a fan of most of the other characters. They range from one-dimensional to completely insufferable. I especially dislike detective Kinderman. His stuttering, repetitive dialogue massively grated on my nerves. I was tempted to start skimming every time he showed up on the page. His murder investigation did add extra drama to the plot, though, so I guess I can forgive the author (a little).

So, is The Exorcist the scariest book of all time? I’m not sure. It’s gross and cringe-inducing. Some parts of it are suspenseful. I was creeped out by the demon taking control of Regan’s body and contorting it in painful ways. But, I can’t say I ever felt scared while reading.

Now I need to watch the movie. I’ve never seen it, so it will be interesting to see how it compares to the book.  






8 comments:

  1. What a perfect post for Halloween day! I'm so disappointed that it wasn't scary, but I can't say I'm surprised. It seems like most classic horror books are marketed as the scariest of all time and none of them have been so far. :/ The suspense does sound awesome though! I may have to check this out on audio sometime. Great review :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

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    1. A book has never scared me, so maybe I’m not the best judge of scariness. It was gross, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. Well, as you mentioned, it wasn't published recently. So it could have seemed a lot scarier then than now. Readers are more jaded now.

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    1. I always wonder about that when I read classic horror. I probably don’t find them scary because I’m jaded. It takes a lot to scare me.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I have only recently read "The Exorcist" and I was expecting it to be very scary. And yeah, Father Karras is the most interesting character there. I rather like Father Merrin's character, too. Regan's possession was more... disgusting than creepy. I need to watch the movie, though. I can't remember most of it anymore. Maybe that one's going to be scarier for me... :)

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  4. It was really interest to read your thoughts on this title. I've only seen the film myself, which I watched when I was quite young actually (mid - late teens), and although I knew there was a book I never thought to pick it up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  5. I've heard about how horribly creepy the movie is but please don't judge me for not knowing this was a novel before >> I should've though, because all the best movies are often stemming from the best books. It sounds horrifyingly creepy and like that horror is really based on emotions that people can relate to.

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  6. Ahh, I didn't know this story was originally a book ^^; It sounds like a good story but probably too intense for me.

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