No other story of demons, Armageddon, Ragnarok, good vs evil, etc. (choose the religion of your choice) comes close to the timeless classical horror of Blatty's The Exorcist. In honor of the re-release of The Exorcist in theatres (one of my favorite soundtracks by the way, including the ambient splendor of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells) I decided to reread the original book, only this time with the analytical mindset I've been using lately to be able to write these reviews when I'm done.
One of the first things that should be mentioned is that The Exorcist, contrary to popular belief, is a fictional story. It isn't a true or real account by any stretch of the imagination. Author William Peter Blatty did get the idea for the story from reading documented accounts of exorcisms and cases of possession, and The Exorcist is based on facts (or supernatural information - whether or not you consider them "facts" is left up to you). But it is a fictional piece. There is no Regan, no Father Karras
With that said, we can discuss the novel. The novel is, as it was before, phenomenally riveting. Though written 30 years ago (and I know this, because it was published in the year of my birth), The Exorcist loses nothing to the marching on of time - it's still as strong now as it was 30 years ago, maybe even stronger bolstered by strings of similarly-themed movies that tried to hop on the bandwagon only to prove that The Exorcist can't be matched. It continually grows in suspense and thrill, growing more powerful and intense as it goes on. Unlike a lot of today's novels, The Exorcist does have a definite and ending climax to the story. And it continually powers down the highway to get there and explodes once it does. The Exorcist takes you for a wonderful ride into the supernatural.
I've always had an affinity for religion-oriented media. Now I'm not going to bore you with my own sordid belief system, but I can easily say that I found such movies as The Seventh Sign, The Ninth Gate, even the simplistic, near-comedic The Gate to be very enjoyable. I've studied cult works and occult things throughout high school because I found it fascinating. Of course it didn't help my already nasty reputation, but it got me out of trouble a few times. Knowledge is power.
Anyway, I digress. Back to The Exorcist, which is why I mentioned my affinity for biblical and occult movies/books. So you can imagine that I of course enjoyed this one. What I found most enjoyable was that Blatty, being a true researcher (and a Jesuit to boot), leaves clips and excerpts from documented studies of the subject from such notables as Carl Jung. Peppered with such facts and study excerpts, the realism of the novel and the disbelief of the story itself becomes just a fading memory. The diabolical nature of the personality (demon, devil, something) that has possessed the young girl, Regan, is brutal. Language becomes a tool of destruction in the hands of such a beast and anyone who can't bear to hear some four letter utterances issuing from people's pie holes (much less the mouth of a twelve (eleven?) year old girl) should steer clear. Whatever little group of pissed off entities cropped up inside of Regan, they have some whippy language to toss around.
All in all, The Exorcist still remains the best example of an exorcist/possession story. Now there is another out in the movies, one called Lost Souls, and that looks promising so I'll get back to you on it. But I still believe, regardless of how much technical splendor the creators in Hollywood throw up on the screen the story, won't pass up the great original from the mind of William Peter Blatty. And I think, at the height of her possession, Regan would still kick Winona Ryder's ass - though it would probably be close.
"The Exorcist" by
William Peter Blatty
Published by Harper & Row
Copyright © 1971 by William Peter Blatty