top of page

The Exorcist


William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist
average rating is 5 out of 5

Horror, Extreme, Supernatural, Thriller

R. Alex Jenkins

Is there anyone on this planet who doesn't know about the basic premise behind this book? More to the point, is it still worth reading 50 years on in addition to the film? One-thousand-percent yes, a 10/10 book, five stars + five buckets of projectile vomit and sauerkraut-smelling poop, but warning, the c-word is thrown around a LOT.

If you've already seen the excellent 1970s movie (who hasn't) it's hard to remain unbiased and neutral when there's so much prior information. You already know what's coming next: little girl, possessed and out of her mind, plus everyone else waiting for total shit to hit the fan, except that it happens at a much slower and more languid pace in comparison to the movie. There's incredible insight into the characters and how they emotionally interact with each other, and most strikingly, what it must be like to slowly witness a child being literally subjected to hell. It could be your child or someone you dearly care about.

When I became a father I had a recurring nightmare of my son being swept down a storm drain, diving after him and trying to rescue the bundle, night after night like a biblical Moses panic attack. No one wants to see their child suffer, ever, but curiously, we do like to witness other people's pain from the outside looking in, perhaps to feel better about ourselves? Maybe to lighten the load?

As a kid, I remember the movie being incredibly scary and euphorically entertaining. The book, however, doesn't even mention demonic possession until nearly half way through, and it takes until 80% before they collectively decide that exorcism is even necessary. What are you faffing around for, you will surely ask yourself while mother Chris has been going out of her mind since about page 6!

Oddly enough, The Exorcist reads more like a slow-burn crime thriller than harrowing horror, although disturbing it definitely is. William Blatty does an amazing job at creating atmospherics and emotional dialogue between characters, with the "c*nting daughter" phrase being especially memorable, seemingly echoing from the devil itself rather than an author trying to shock just for effect.

I absolutely loved this book, partially out of nostalgia, partly from a Mario Puzo dark mafia Godfather-esque perspective, desperately wanting to see how heavy and involved it could become through its slow and compelling buildup, brilliantly written with such human and humane personalities.

I don’t know anything much about possession itself or the practicality of implementing exorcism in days gone by; this is fiction after all, but if there are demons out there, it can take doctors, psychiatrists and priests weeks of useless conjecture and analysis before doing anything useful. Everything can be scientifically explained away in a million different manners, and this book reinforces the scary truth that there is a mighty fine line between sanity and insanity, as most of us have no idea how to act when confronted by extreme duress. Chuck some more sedatives at the rotting filthy child bouncing up and down on the bed. We are ad-libbing our lives right this minute!

bottom of page