Anthony Gramuglia's Reviews > The Exorcist

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
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Feb 21, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: horror, inspiration-for-writing, religious
Recommended to Anthony by: My grandmother
Recommended for: Horror fans, writers of religious fiction, and mystery hounds
Read in October, 2009

William Peter Blatty claimed he saw The Exorcist less as a horror film, and more as a mystery film. In a way, he's right, but don't all mysteries have an element of horror to them, and don't all horror films need mystery to be strong stories?

The beauty of The Exorcist is not simply in its spectacle, but in its ideas. While the story of a little girl being possessed by the devil isn't spectacular in this day and age, the idea of it being treated so realistically is odd. Most modern exorcism fiction has the possessed girl getting proper help right away, and feels no need to introduce the idea of exorcism gradually like this novel does. Most stories don't take the time to demonstrate the might of the demonic forces at work like this story does. From the very beginning, there is a great sense of evil lurking just outside the window, and, as the story goes on, the idea of evil is the most palpable force. Pazuzu may sound like a silly name for an all-powerful demon, but the sense of evil is so great, you don't even realize that.

What helps is how the story is written. It reads like a fast paced thriller, a page turner. This book can be read in a single night, and you never once feel like you're forcing yourself to read just another paragraph more. You are glued, you will not stop reading until you see the end. It hits the right balance of introspection on the characters' thoughts and the moving action, so that you never linger too long on a single moment.

Not only that, but you grow to honestly love these characters. The problem with some books, especially in horror, is that you don't care about what happens to them. This is never the case in The Exorcist. Reagan is an innocent girl who has done nothing to deserve the suffering inflicted upon her. The mother is tragic, truly lovable woman struggling to compromise her modern believes with ancient superstition. Damien Karras is a tragic figure, losing his faith while having to combat a demon who longs to consume reality in dread and disbelief. Father Merrin is a man who long ago confronted evil, and now fights the same force again, well aware that the demon might just be out to get revenge on him, using the girl as a means to hurt him. Hell, I even love that investigator guy! I dunno why, but I just wanna hug him! >___<

Either way, the theme of religion's place in modern society is a strong theme. Where does faith exist in a world where people are too consumed in their day-to-day lives to even know about the supernatural forces at work? However, what separates this work from other modern religious works is that it never comes across as heavy handed. It's subtle, yet blatant enough to be seen. It can be enjoyed by those who don't care about religion at all. It never isolates its audience, but rather appeals to everyone. The religious can feel their believes confirmed in the text, while the nonreligious can just enjoy a scary story.

And it is a scary story...unless you're like me and nothing scares you. In that case, you can truly enjoy the deeper layers to the story, how it manages to enrich the reader with every word. Also, the movie is superb. It's one of the few times the movie does justice to the book.
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