Author: William Peter Blatty
First Published: 1971
Page Count: 378
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 4/5 Stars
This classic book, while not flat-out frightening, maintains its reign as the ultimate horror novel with its graphic representation of the dreaded act of exorcising demons.
*Not Scary *Cheesy Dialogue
“God never talks. But the devil keeps advertising, Father. The devil does a lot of commercials.” In Washington D.C., twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil has become possessed by a demon and her mother, film star Chris MacNeil, is at her wit’s end about what to do. After endless doctors visits, psychiatric evaluations, and time in a clinic, everyone is puzzled about how to improve the rapidly declining health of the young girl. Could the help of a Jesuit priest through an exorcism be Regan’s last hope at survival?
I have always been curious about this story but every time it pops up on TV on Halloween I usually chicken out and keep channel surfing. But curiosity got the best of me and I thought I’d give the book a try. The story read as I expected: girl gets possessed, does crazy stuff, priest comes to do an exorcism. However, what I enjoyed most was the overall feel of the book. The tone is very dark and serious. Some of the scenes, which are quite graphic and disturbing, are represented in just the right way so that it adds to the overbearing feeling of evil that engulfs the book instead of coming off as comical or tasteless. Even the ending was brilliantly done and unexpected. The entire book we are subjected to indescribable acts of horror and the ending, like the end of an exorcism, leaves the reader with a sense of peace, hope, and lightness after so much dark. The ending, in a way, made me realize that this book is just as much about love as it is about evil which was not what I had expected.
This is probably a case of something being overhyped, but I was not nearly as scared as I had expected to be when reading such a notorious book. The book left me more with a creepy, spine tingling sense of dread of the unknown, but my fear level never rose beyond that. It could also be that the movie is a more frightening representation of this story because you are visually seeing everything that is described in this novel. I wouldn’t know since I haven’t seen it but that’s my guess anyway. There was also one aspect of the book that really irked me which was some of the dialogue, mostly by the mother, Chris. It could be because of the time period of when the story takes place, but she essentially sounded like a cheesy game show host. Believe me if my daughter was levitating off of her bed my first words would not be “gee wiz.”
This book is much more approachable than I originally imagined. If you are on the fence about it in terms of the scare factor I would say don’t let that stop you. This is definitely a classic book and a must read if you’re delving into the horror genre. I would only caution people who are turned off by graphic descriptions of disturbing scenes involving sex to steer clear because this books gets pretty freaky in that department. Otherwise check out this fearsome piece of pop culture history. I’m interested to see how faithful the film is in comparison to this frightening tale.
* Film Adaptation: (Starring Linda Blair 1973)