The Exorcist (A book review)

Rating 4/5

The ExorcistIt’s seems every decade has had it Satanic panic, the 1960’s had it’s Manson murders, Rosemary’s baby, The First Church of Satan and the old Barbara Steel films. The 1970’s saw the rise of poltergeist mostly in the way of Enfield poltergeist, Damien of The Omen fame and of course William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist; often quoted by British film critic Mark Kermode as the greatest film ever made. The 1980’s saw the true Satanic Panic, cults on every street corner, any heavy metal album played backwards would enter you in to a pact with Old Nick to sell your very soul, except the records of christian heavy metal band Stryper for obvious reasons. The 1990’s again saw music being responsible with such acts as Marilyn Manson being held up as the poster boy for all that was unwholesome at the time.

Blatty’s Exorcist is for me the corner stone of all possession stories if you have read A Head full of Ghost. you will notice it is an uplift to Blatty’s 1970’s blue print. The story centers around Regan the daughter of a well heeled Hollywood actress, who happens to be working on her next project in Washington at the local Jesuit college.

It starts off slow, there are the usual bangs and knocking one would associate with a haunting. Stuff goes missing and appears in placing, there is an Ouija board too. Regan starts to become ill and traditional medicine has now answers so it’s to psychology and aliments of the mind becoming the reason of the illness. Enter priest Father Karras who happens to be both of the cloth and a physiologist, who is struggling with his own faith.

The story is a slow boil and is both a horror story and a physiological thriller, I am not sure by reading it, is Blatty  pro or against the Catholic church. it never crosses the line in to praise or scorn. Blatty’s style and prose is not straight forward either paragraphs switch between characters who may not even be in the same room.

“He walked up the stairs”

“While he was walking up the stairs across town she was boarding a bus”

It is an interesting style and does take some getting use to it maybe a detraction for some readers but after a while one gets to enjoy it. The real gem of the story is the brilliantly realized Kinderman , LT of detectives across between Columbo and Phillip Marlowe. A character that needs seeking out and devoured in the best sense.

Faith, loss, a mothers love are recurring themes through out the book Regan’s mother knows what happens to at least one person does she do the right thing?

It may be a little dated at times, but it works will and you can understand why the film always pops up in them 101 horror movies to see before you die lists. it is a slow boil but a lot of the best horror is. Read that then read A Head full Of Ghost the fitting homage to Blatty.

A Head full of Ghost. The Exorcist meets the 2010s

Paul Tremblay in A head full of ghost adds a contemporary twist in the possession story. The exorcist for the i-phone generation.

Something is not right in the Barrett’s home 14 year old Marjory maybe descending in to madness, Mr Barrett has found religion and Mrs Barrett is trying to hold it all together while young Merry is trying to make sense of it all. All set against the backdrop of Pa Barrett losing his well paid Job. In a way it’s a normal story of middle class family trying to make ends meet. But something more sinister is afoot and the family maybe able to make a quick buck with the magic of TV. Years after the events Merry sits down to tell her story to a journalist.

Tremblay writes a fast paced story, jumping between time zones using present day Merry and 8 year old Merry along with numerous blog posts critic each episode of the TV show.

Each character is well fault out and develops nicely through the story allowing the reader to be engaged with the cast and at times building sympathy, revolution and sometimes hate. There is enough in there to keep the reader gripped.

What allows the book to be as good as it is, Tremblay builds his world with gusto and creates a totally believable scenario. You believe that Barrett has found religion and that how he believes the TV show “The possession” is the best way forward. You believe that the TV production crew would behave like that, Tremblay catches the slew of TV ghost hunting shows and manages to put it on the page.

But at the end I was angry with Tremblay at the end, I wont mention the ending but it will make you think and you may even feel cheated. The Journey to get cheated is well crafted and as they say it is better to travel than to arrive.