Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Exorcist (1971)

For some unknown reason, I bought this copy of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist from the library book sale. I think I was just interested to see how closely the movie followed the book. And I do like the movies (well, the first one and the third one, the second one is a little goofy but still occasionally entertaining). And, with the exception of the first couple chapters and a few heavy-handed metaphors, I was not disappointed.

As most of you are probably aware, The Exorcist is the story of Chris MacNeil, a famous actress (who was actually based on Shirley MacLaine, who is a friend of Blatty), and her daughter Regan. Things start out slowly, with Regan complaining of bumps in her room and an demonstrating an increasing fascination with her Ouija board. Regan's problems soon escalate into a barfing, cussing, coma-ridden, linguistically enhanced, religiously-tinged masturbatory freak out, at which point her mother and the rest of the household seek outside help. They first turn to doctors, then psychologists, then a doubt-ridden priest who is also a psychologist (Father Karras), and finally an un-doubting old priest who comes right away when he is called to exorcise the demon Pazuzu out of little Regan. (Pazuzu! It never stops being funny to say. If you watch Exorcist II, you will get to spend a lot of time with Pazuzu.)

Overall the book is fast-paced and well written, although it occasionally gets a little too drawn down into its science vs. religion, doubt vs. belief motifs. And the first chapter almost made me just put the book down and walk away (which I almost never do) -- it is told from the perspective of Chris MacNeil, and has some of the hammiest metaphors and stupid use of sentence fragments and italics I have ever seen. The first paragraph of the book gives you a taste of it: "Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men's eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. It was difficult to judge." If you can get through that, the rest of the book is a breeze.

Finally, I know I have posted this clip before (which is from Exorcist III, although the carp in question is actually mentioned by the detective in the book of The Exorcist), but I can't get enough of George C. Scott and his carp:


jlowe said...

That book freaked me out when I read it the first time. I started it in bed, and I ended up finishing it that night because I couldn't sleep.

Lei-Leen said...

(1) thank god it was flare instead of flair; and
(2) i can read august derleth in daylight, but i threw the necronomicon across the room and things on top of it twenty pages in, when i was sixteen.

i'm a wussy.