The Exorcist (The Exorcist #1) ★★☆☆☆

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Title: The Exorcist
Series: The Exorcist #1
Author: William Blatty
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror
Pages: 282
Words: 101K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

An elderly Jesuit priest named Father Lankester Merrin is leading an archaeological dig in northern Iraq and is studying ancient relics. After discovering a small statue of the demon Pazuzu (an actual ancient Assyrian demon), a series of omens alerts him to a pending confrontation with a powerful evil, which, unknown to the reader at this point, he has battled before in an exorcism in Africa.

Meanwhile, in Georgetown, a young girl named Regan MacNeil is living with her famous mother, actress Chris MacNeil, who is in Georgetown filming a movie. As Chris finishes her work on the film, Regan begins to become inexplicably ill. After a gradual series of poltergeist-like disturbances in their rented house, for which Chris attempts to find rational explanations, Regan begins to rapidly undergo disturbing psychological and physical changes: she refuses to eat or sleep, becomes withdrawn and frenetic, and increasingly aggressive and violent. Chris initially mistakes Regan’s behavior as a result of repressed anger over her parents’ divorce and absent father.

After several unsuccessful psychiatric and medical treatments, Regan’s mother, an atheist, turns to a local Jesuit priest for help as Regan’s personality becomes increasingly disturbed. Father Damien Karras, who is currently going through a crisis of faith coupled with the loss of his mother, agrees to see Regan as a psychiatrist, but initially resists the notion that it is an actual demonic possession. After a few meetings with the child, now completely inhabited by a diabolical personality, he turns to the local bishop for permission to perform an exorcism on the child.

The bishop with whom he consults does not believe Karras is qualified to perform the rites, and appoints the experienced Merrin—who has recently returned to the United States—to perform the exorcism, although he does allow the doubt-ridden Karras to assist him. The lengthy exorcism tests the priests both physically and spiritually. When Merrin, who had previously suffered cardiac arrhythmia, dies during the process, completion of the exorcism ultimately falls upon Father Karras. When he demands that the demonic spirit inhabit him instead of the innocent Regan, the demon seizes the opportunity to possess the priest. Karras heroically surrenders his own life in exchange for Regan’s by jumping out of her bedroom window and falling to his death, regaining his faith in God as his last rites are read.

My Thoughts:

I think this book would have been much easier to read as fictional horror if I didn’t believe that demons are real, that possessions are real or that exorcisms are real. That being said, Blatty is no Christian. He grew up catholic and this story deeply reflects that but he was what you’d call a “nominal” catholic. A “nominal” X is someone who likes to say he is X but only believes or practices select bits of X while criticizing and trying to change every other bit of X. It is kind of like saying you love pizza and then only eating the cheese and throwing the rest away.

My main issues with this book weren’t about the demon possession or the nature of evil. Unfortunately, it was all with the nature of God. The older priest, Merrin, believes that God is an Omega Point (from what I understand that is extremely similar to the hindu idea of Nirvana, where everyone becomes part of one gigantic thingamajig and loses their individuality). That is extremely problematic for me as it denies what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible as a personal God. It also makes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection meaningless as we’re all going to reach perfection naturally on our own through evolution.

My other issue is that Jesus, as God, is barely mentioned. In the Bible, in the New Testament, the disciples of Jesus and then later others, cast out demons in Jesus name. They didn’t use complicated rituals and perform mystical ceremonies. The name of Jesus has power for those who believe in Him. It really felt like the author believed in the power of evil and demons but wasn’t quite so sure about the power of God.

With these issues in mind, I think this is going to be the first and last book by Blatty that I read. There’s a sequel to this called Legion that I had on my TBR but that’s not going to happen now.

On a final note, ouija boards are dangerous. They open the user up to the supernatural and unfortunately, only the evil side of that. Don’t play around with them folks, they are not a game.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

40 thoughts on “The Exorcist (The Exorcist #1) ★★☆☆☆

    1. The book was depressing.
      I’ve never seen the movie either, just the parody movie where they take the scene of the possessed girl projectile vomiting. Scary Movie 2 I think it was? THAT scene had me almost crying with the laughter. The rest of the movie, not so much.

      But I don’t do horror films, period. The images stick in my head and I do more to scare myself once the lights go out 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s pop Christianity. People liked it (and the movie) because it suggested that religion had some power and relevance in the modern world. In today’s demonic horror films (Paranormal Activity, Conjuring, etc.) religion is usually shown to have no power against supernatural evil at all. That is, the devil/demons are real, but God is dead. It’s actually a much darker point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not surprised you didn’t like this, although Blatty himself is an interesting character. Ninth Configuration has got a bit more to offer than Legion, but The Exorcist is a bit of a horror comic IMHO. The suggestion of faith is what made it stand out, but Blatty only goes so far with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was an ok, if a bit dated, read until the priest’s Omega Point theology got trotted out. Then I just rolled my eyes and finished as quickly as I could.
      Quite the opposite viewpoint from the Saint Tommy, NYPD series that I had been reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The movie is scary, IMO. I’ve always wanted to read the book too. I’m Christian too but feel that overlooking the beliefs wouldn’t have been a big deal. I agree it’s harder because this isn’t fiction. Excellent review. Interesting there’s another book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never read “The Exorcist”, but I read the Blatty book that ‘The Ninth Configuration” is based on, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane”. I enjoyed both the book and film.

    I saw a documentary about the making of ‘The Exorcist”. The stunt guy and director were out of control and got both Anne Bancroft and Linda Blair hurt. Linda suffered from back injuries for the rest of her life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m assuming the 2 women you mention were the mother and daughter in the story? While people might poo-poo cgi and special effects, I’m all for it when it comes to saving actors physical harm

      Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah, this is really going to bring down my monthly average, especially without any Yotsuba to raise the bar.
      I’ll survive though. I’m pretty tough 😉

      Like

    1. Thanks for the comment Nscovell. Appreciate you dropping by.
      If you were a big fan of the movie, I’d recommend the book just to see the source material. I say that about almost every book to movie adaptation though, so take it with a grain of salt 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I never read the book but saw the movie, so I guess that many of the issues concerning faith and religion you mentioned got lost in the “translation”, Hollywood being Hollywood. It’s been many years so my memory of the movie is quite foggy, but I doubt I will try and refresh it with the book…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah, I don’t generally do demon books/movies. I’ve lived in a culture where demonic activity was less “behind the scenes” than it usually is here in the US. The mission my parents worked for produced a film based on true occult-related events (two brothers who got involved in candomblé) that’s much more Christian and hopeful. The acting is pretty low-budget atrocious and it’s in Portuguese (with English subtitles), but if you’re interested type “Corrente Quebrada Filme” (Broken Chain Film) into youtube.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It isn’t a horror movie by any means. There are a few parts that are a little creepy just because supernatural activity is involved, but no “jump scares” or extended sequences intended to frighten. It’s more of a personal testimony of salvation story than anything (and a warning against becoming involved with this religion of channeling spirits, casting spells, etc.).

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Never watched the movie (though I’ve seen a few scenes), or read the book for precisely the same reason. I was raised RC by a mom who firmly believed that if you stared into the abyss, it stared back into you, and you just don’t go around opening those doors for fun, a belief she was completely successful in passing along to me.

    Also agree with you about the ouija boards – I’ve always considered myself pretty tolerant of other people’s choices, but that thing is a no-go for me and I won’t knowingly be in the same place as one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only seen the parody scene from Scary Movie 2. Nothing to convince me to go watch the original though.

      The first Saint Tommy NYPD book talks about ouija boards too. Thankfully, I’ve never been tempted to play around with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve only seen the movie. It scared the shit outta me, but I was a kid then. I attempted watching it as an adult and was too annoyed to finish it.

    And yea man, don’t mess with them ouija boards!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Was that ouija board comment coming from a concerned citizen or more of a joke? 😛 Your review of this classic reminds me of a documentary series my girlfriend made me watch called Surviving Death where they explore unusual cases of people surviving death in unlikely situations and all the spiritual talk through mediums and whatnot…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, that comment was deadly serious.
      I’ve read enough warnings by various Christian authorities and read enough stories by people who have gotten involved that I take it very seriously.

      All I can say is be VERY careful….

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Have done Ouija board with a medium before. Can confirm, it’s not all rainbows and sunshines.

    This book sounds a bit meh. If he is, as you say believing more in the evil powers rather than the godly, it just makes zero sense. As for one to exist, the other has to be, at the very least, as potent in the same conversation :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What you mentioned in the second paragraph is part of why I eventually gave up on Stephen King. I don’t actually mind if a writer is more dualistic in nature (ie, good and evil are a matched pair) but that isn’t Christianity. So when someone uses that term, they’d better get it right! 🙂

      Like

  11. There’s a BOOK …?

    This is one of those where I only knew about the movie.

    The scariest part of this was reading about the beginning of Reagan’s symptoms (in your review I mean). It’s every parent’s worst nightmare when their kid refuses to eat and/or sleep: What if they keep doing this? How will I keep them alive? Is this the beginning of something worse?

    Liked by 1 person

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