William Peter Blatty - Exorcist


Exorcist is a great story, don't get me wrong. It's very much a period piece, written around the time of Woodstock and the supposedly biggest generational rift thus far in human history, in which a parent's child suddenly starts speaking in an unknown language and acting in a way the parent can only explain by supernatural means... hmmm. Well, horror is always metaphor at heart.

Profanities, obscenities and very graphic scenes aside, it's a pretty conservative story, too. It can easily be read as "the punishment for being a working divorced atheist mom is to have your daughter possessed, and you can only save her by believing". But hey, as a story, it works. I particularly like the prist, whose role (as far as I recall) is more central here than in the movie; a man who struggles with faith and all-too-human demons of his own. It's the parallel between him and the (largely absent) possessed girl that makes this a worthwile story.

The problem is in the writing. It's well-paced (for the most part), it works on more than one level, it's chock-full (perhaps too much so) of religious symbolism - as if it's not just poor little Regan but all of society that's given itself up to the Hornéd One - but it's also clear that Blatty is a screenwriter used to having a team of cameramen, directors and cutters on hand to give his stories life, NOT a novelist. This reads almost like a screenplay; the prose is a mixture of phrases that are supposed to sound poetic but mostly come out bizarre, and wooden, exposition-filled dialogue where no one seems to actually talk TO each other, just AT each other. There are more "she sobbed tearfully"s, "he explained patiently"s and "she screamed hair-out-pullingly"s here than you can shake a cross at, plus my personal pet peeve: the Foreign character who has a name which is all wrong for his supposed nationality, speaks in some sort of Foreigner English which sounds nothing like the accent someone of his suppposed nationality should have, and can't even speak his own language correctly when he tries. Granted, not a huge fault, but I just *really* wish authors would stop doing that; if you have no clue about a certain country and language, don't try to write characters from it. 'Kay? Kay.

It's a classic, and deservedly so, as it's suspenseful, fairly scary and actually manages to say something (though not necessarily something I'd agree with) about its time. But... yeah. It needs a director and a cameraman. And Max von Sydow.



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