The Exorcist Film vs. Novel

The iconic 70s project that are even more popular today

Adam Walters, Contributor

The Exorcist was written by William Peter Blatty and released in 1971. It instantly became a bestseller and was influential enough to spawn its own cinematic film that was released in 1973. William Peter Blatty even wrote the screenplay for the film that was directed by William Friedkin. The film was nominated for best picture by the Academy in its release year and is now considered to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

The Exorcist tells the story of a young girl named Regan who begins acting very different. When Regan begins doing things like levitating and speaking in languages she’s never known her mother Chris seeks medical help. Not a single thing seems to be helping Regan improve until a priest named Damien Karris tells Chris that her daughter could be possessed.

There are not too many differences between the film and the novel. The main difference is that the novel is more of a detective story about Damien Karris while the film is just a horror movie that’s sole focus is the demonic possession of Regan. Also, in the movie there are multiple subliminal shots of a white demon face that will pop up throughout the runtime. Which adds to the horror of the experience.

The third act in the film is a sequence I will never forget. Watching Karris and Lankester Merrin, an experienced priest, perform an exorcism on a little girl and seeing the extent the demon inside of her will go to stay in her body was bone chilling. The practical effects that were used in the film were some of the best I’ve ever seen. This movie would not have been nearly as good if CGI effects were used like most films today use.

When reading a horror novel a question that is often asked is if it is a scary experience. It’s safe to say that both the novel and the film are terrifying. If I had to choose which was scarier between the film or novel I would have to pick the film. Most of the time, reading the book and just putting the pieces together in my head of what I thought everything looked like is far scarier than what it tends to look like in film adaptations, but watching this story play out I found far scarier than I did reading it. All the subliminal imagery put together with the mood and tone of the film and even the way the film is shot is scary. The Exorcist is one of the scariest films I have ever sat through.

Both the novel and the film are some of the most influential pieces of all time. Let alone the horror genre. Without William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist the entertainment industry would be a much different place.