BOOK REVIEW: The Exorcist (The Folio Society Edition)

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I’d like to think that everyone remembers where they were the first time they watched The Exorcist. For me, it was 1995 and I was twelve years old. Toy Story was the year’s biggest box-office hit and everyone thought they were straight outta Compton, rapping along with Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise.’ I was going through a phase of watching anything I could get my grubby little hands on that involved demonic possession, because I was twelve and thought that kind of stuff was cool. (Note: It still is.) The Evil Dead, Prince of Darkness, Night of The Demons, Rosemary’s Baby and The Amityville Horror – if there was anything that involved the timeless theme of Good vs. Evil on a biblical scale than I had to watch it.

I realised though, that I hadn’t seen The Exorcist, so invited a few friends over and ordered some pizzas. They were happy to come along – they’d heard their friends say that this film was the most horrifying thing ever made! And people had passed out in the cinemas when they originally watched it in the 70’s! My parents were quite liberal-minded with the films I watched as a child, so as we popped in the VHS and started munching away, I felt excited at the prospect of priests battling demons, the scourges of hell-spawn lain to waste by the power of faith, that type of thing. However, I think it was around the time when Regan soiled herself in front of her mother and other party revellers when I noticed that my stomach was starting to churn. A feeling of nausea swept over me – like sea sickness but worse. Much, much worse. My friends glanced at each other as I started moaning, clutching my stomach, and then their glances became worried faces of bafflement as I curled up into a ball, growling like a wounded animal.

“Are you alright?” One friend said.

“I…dunno…I feel…”

I lurched forward, feeling the unmistakable bile rise from my gullet and raced to the toilet. A few moments later my head was completely submerged in the white porcelain one-way telephone, blasting hot fluid from both ends. My friends looked horrified as I trudged back into the room, assuming the demon Pazuzu had leapt out from the television and straight into my soul. I think in hindsight they were waiting for me to projectile vomit pea green soup all over the walls and throw them around the room like a rag-doll. Haven’t eaten a Hawaiian Special Meat Feast ever since.

Illustration by Jeremy Caniglia from The Folio Society edition of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty ©Jeremy Caniglia

Looking back on it, The Exorcist isn’t a particularly scary film. Nowadays, it’s considered a bit of a slow-burn horror classic, disturbing the viewer and challenging perceptions about faith and humanity, rather than the tired out trope nowadays of jump scares and CGI effects. I didn’t know at the time that The Exorcist was originally a novel, which author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty later closely adapted for the big screen himself. The Folio Society’s edition takes the text of the fortieth anniversary special, released in 2011, for which author Blatty made some revisions to the original text.


Illustration by Jeremy Caniglia from The Folio Society edition of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty ©Jeremy Caniglia

This new edition by the Folio Society is exhibited in hardback, with minute attention to detail. The decision to have the cover evoke imagery of the bible is simplicity and beauty all rolled into one and the crimson colours are offset by the enveloping black case sleeve. With every Folio Society release, there are some glorious illustrations to behold. With the imagery of the film strong in people’s minds, artist Jeremy Caniglia wisely depicts characters on page that look nothing like their movie counterparts. Caniglia opts for the ‘found footage,’ device within the novel, with his illustrations rendered as archived photographs, with the indispensable scratch marks and sepia tint to heighten the feel that you’re poring through some old documents, uncovering the mysteries of Father Merrin’s archaeological dig.

Illustration by Jeremy Caniglia from The Folio Society edition of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty ©Jeremy Caniglia

If you’re not aware of the plot of The Exorcist, (where have you been for almost half a century?) the story centres around Chris MacNeil, a successful and famous actress who is working on a film in Washington DC when her daughter, Regan, starts to show some rather disturbing behaviour. Blatty excels here at building a sense of dread and eeriness, without ever veering into absurdity, and it’s Chris’ rational explanation of everything that keeps the reader grounded. She seeks help for her daughter, but when the medical profession offers no answers, the desperate mother calls on the aid of the Catholic Church, slowly accepting the actuality that her daughter may not be what she seems.

The Exorcist allows the reader to explore the opposing forces between religion and fear of the unknown, and may well be the metaphor of investigating answers for order in an uncontrollable world. One could argue that if Puzuzu represents the cancers and atrocious acts committed in the world, then Chris and Father Karras represent order and rationality. The Exorcist remains a good read, preferably at night when you’re tucked up in bed with a lone bedside lamp on, twitching every time you hear a noise from the hallway.

The Folio Society edition of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is available exclusively from


Reviewed by Anthony Self

William Peter Blatty


William Peter Blatty (January 7, 1928 – January 12, 2017) was an American writer and filmmaker best known for his 1971 novel The Exorcist and for the Academy Award-winning screenplay of its film adaptation. He also wrote and directed the sequel The Exorcist III. After the success of The Exorcist, Blatty reworked Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane! (1960) into a new novel titled The Ninth Configuration, published in 1978. Two years later, Blatty adapted the novel into a film of the same title and won Best Screenplay at the 1981 Golden Globe Awards. Some of his other notable works are the novels Elsewhere(2009), Dimiter (2010) and Crazy (2010).





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