Friday, 4 May 2018

Book Review: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The unusual occurrences in the MacNeil house could easily be explained away – rats in the attic, misplaced furniture - but the disturbing changes in Regan MacNeil’s behaviour could not. Doctors are unable to diagnose what could have caused this shift in personality, so Regan’s mother turns to Father Damien Karras, who is suffering from his own lack of faith.

“We mourn the blossoms of May because they are to whither; but we know that May is one day to have its revenge upon November, by the revolution of that solemn circle which never stops – which teaches us in our height of hope, ever to be sober, and in our depth of desolation, never to despair.”

I’m finally writing a proper book review for one of my favourite books of all time after reading it for the third time. But let’s go way back to the start… The Exorcist was pretty much my gateway into reading horror. Growing up I hated horror, you couldn’t have paid me to watch a horror movie – I blame my brothers forcing me to watch Freddy Krueger at a very young age and mentally scarring me – but in my late teens, I was intrigued. I started off by watching the Scream movies to ease me into the genre, but pretty quickly my movie choices escalated into what is considered one of the most terrifying movies of all time – The Exorcist. It quickly became one of my favourite movies and I decided I needed to read the book. And so my journey into horror literature began.

I remember thinking the book wouldn’t be as scary the movie, but boy was I wrong. I think the book is somehow more terrifying. Granted, we don’t have the incredible cinematography or that haunting score, but what we have instead is a slow and tense build as Regan falls under the possession of Pazuzu. During my readalong of this book a number of people seemed to be surprised by William Peter Blatty’s prose. A lot of people were like “Shit, this guy can write”. And he can! After reading this, Legion and The Ninth Configuration, he would rank as one of my favourite authors, and so I take a lot of pleasure in people “discovering” Blatty as a writer.

Another surprising aspect for a number of people was how emotional the book is. I shed a few tears at the end myself. Damien Karras is one of the most well-written and believable characters I’ve ever come across. He struggles with his faith as he tries to decipher exactly what is happening with Regan and you can really feel the turmoil he is going through. He is a psychologist as well as a priest, so I found it really interesting to get inside his mind and follow his thought process and research - is Regan possessed or can this be explained by some psychological disorder? As someone who believes in demonic possession, I find these sections of the book incredibly informative. And they help me build my argument for people who try to tell me that these things don’t exist because all the symptoms can be explained away by science. In my opinion, they can’t. *insert sassy emoji*

This book is one of the very very few that I struggle to read in bed at night. I’ve become very desensitised to horror, but I think a lot of us still have certain triggers that overwhelm us and send our brain into overdrive. Demonic possession is one of my triggers, as are murderous home invaders (I’m looking at you Golden State Killer). As well as being unnerving and scary, it gets pretty uncomfortable to read at times, particularly when it comes to trying to imagine a young girl screaming expletives in a growling voice coupled with her constant projectile vomiting. And the crucifix scene. I honestly felt like I needed to go to mass after reading that scene. It will always remain one of the most horrific excerpts I’ve ever read.

One of my favourite aspects of The Exorcist, and Blatty’s works in general (what I’ve read so far anyway), is his examination of good vs evil. This seems to be a recurrent theme and one that he is very accomplished at exploring. This merely isn’t a story about the possession of a young girl, but its really a commentary on a vast range of topics such as faith and the lack of it, to what exists after death, if anything exists at all. It might be presented as “horror” on the surface, but really it goes so much deeper than that.

All the stars!! It somehow gets better on each read.


1 comment :

  1. Wow! Great review! I think I need to read this one! I loved the movie, and I think I would love the slow build up and emotion you experiences with the book!


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