The Exorcist easily one of the most horrifying and shocking films of the last century. To this day, many refuse to watch it; some don't even allow it in their homes at all, regarding it as an abomination due to its sacrilegious themes.
But what few are aware of is the fact that the 1973 film was actually a novel-to-film adaptation.
The novel was not out long before the film blasted its way into pop culture; it was published a mere two years before the film overshadowed the novel's existence.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
A fan of the horror genre, the story of the Exorcist always intrigued me since it is considered one of the greats.
In addition, the fact that the novel actually was inspired by a so-called real case of demonic possession and exorcism, intrigued me even further. The author heard of the 1949 case of possession while he was a student at Georgetown University.
I found a worn, dusty copy of the novel that used to belong to a relative and decided to give it a shot; I was looking for a good summer read. I had to laugh - as an old copy of the book that was published shortly after the film release, in big red letters, it exclaims, "See the movie - it is the most electrifying thing that will ever happen to you!" So, I've seen the electrifying movie ... why not read the novel that arguably "started it all" when it comes to the extremely popular theme of demonic possession?
The novel is really not so different from the film - in fact, some of the dialogue is verbatim from the novel.
In my humble opinion, this is a rare case where a book is slightly less riveting than the film adaptation. Generally, many complain that film adaptations cannot compare to its novel counterpart, in that, the written word has the ability to paint a more vivid, in-depth picture of its subjects.
With The Exorcist, however, the written description of the famous Regan MacNeil, the 12-year-old child possessed by a demon, just isn't as horrifying, in my opinion, as what is witnessed on screen, but I suppose part of that comes from the brilliance behind the filmmaker's work. Many horror films today, 40 years later, still can't compare.
While the author, William Peter Blatty, describes all of the events in his screen-adaptation to a T, there is just something missing when you aren't physically seeing the cold bedroom, Regan's chapped, scratched and deformed face, the vomit, and the utter horror that is in front of you while watching the 1973 film. You have a picture in your mind while reading, but I guess, somehow, I just wasn't imagining something as absolutely terrifying as what the film projected.
But the book is certainly not boring. The book is a great, quick read - a whopping 340 pages. I was thrilled from start to finish and the writing is done in a clear, descriptive manner that encapsulates you into the story of this innocent child inhabited by a monstrosity.
I think what the book does that the movie doesn't, though, is paint a better picture of the science and study that the characters in the story do regarding this "possession." The book is very slow in its build-up to Regan's full-blown possession, and in reality, it feels like the possession by the demon itself takes up only a few pages in the grand scheme of the book.
Regan's mother is an atheist, so naturally, her last thought is that her daughter is possessed by some demonic entity; a lot of the novel is spent focusing on other things until the priest finally comes into picture.
But don't get me wrong, those few times, your eyes are glued to the page, and I found myself re-reading the page a few times, gripping the book tightly as the demon spewed its hate and relentlessly tortured Regan. Most of the time, I wouldn't read it past 8 p.m. for fear of getting freaked out before bed.
Ultimately, I think the story is a timeless one that will still rivet both readers and movie-watchers for generations to come. If you're a fan of the genre, I think the book is an interesting, enjoyable read, even having seen the film. For casual readers, if interested, just watch the movie. Although, in my mind, it's more frightening than the book, so that's something to consider.