It begins with noises in the attic, strange odours, a sickly child. Then the bed starts jumping around, furniture moves by itself and a man is found dead with his head turned completely around. Movie actor Chris MacNeil is concerned for her daughter – eleven-year-old Regan – but doctors are stumped. With the only explanations calling for more and more tests, Chris seeks help from elsewhere. Jesuit priest Father Damien Karras, wonders if the child is possessed by a demon, but the priest’s own self-doubt haunts him and the death of his mother does nothing to ease his concern.
First published in 1971, The Exorcist is probably best known as one of the most shocking films ever made, and having seen the movie countless times, I’d say it still stands up well as a horror film. The book, though, is a different matter. This edition is the updated one, with new dialogue, and a text that has been tightened up and improved. Well, that’s a matter of opinion. I’d expected to be wowed, so was a little disappointed to find that even in this updated version, the writing is merely average. With way too many adverbs and countless exclamation marks, it got a bit tedious at times. Luckily, the one thing going for it is that underneath it all there’s a great story.
Reading this on long dark nights didn’t scare me at all and it’s perhaps a mark of the times we live in that horror novels these days require a skilled author to create scenes that will genuinely shock readers.
This book may be a classic, but I reckon Stevie King is still streets ahead in the realm of creating proper scary stuff.