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The Exorcist Review-Book and Movie

Updated on September 22, 2015

Basic Knowledge

Most people (at least those before and including most of my generation) have heard of or seen Th Exorcist the film. Most don't know however that it was based off the novel.

In both film and novel we learn about each character that will weigh heavily on the outcome. We have Chris and Regan MacNeil. Burke Dennings, Damian Karras, Karras' Mother, and briefly Father Merrin.

In the book it opens fairly the same as the film. In the Prologue, Father Merrin is in Northern Iraq on a dig. The film, for the most part shows this exactly like the book. In fact the movie is close to exactly like the book in general.

The mother and main character Chris MacNeil, is a but more eccentric then she is in the movie. I think most would say she is actually quite annoying. When Regan plays with the Ouija and opens the door for the demon who posses her, she begins to go through some changes. At first it was only noises in the attic and the occasional moved furniture. Then it begins with Regan. Chris takes Regan to many doctors and each gives different possible answers and solutions. It drives a person crazy because she listened to each doctor and tried everything. Yes if it meant her daughter getting well then why not, but the doctors were so unsure what was happening it sounded as though everyone was grasping at straws.

It's not until they finally see in action what Chris had been trying to tell them that they finally told her to take her to a psychiatrist. But before she can even decide what to do, the demonic presence makes Regan masturbate with a crucifix. The internal turmoil and struggle as Regan tries to maintain her humanity is shown more clearly in the book and a lot more vividly if one can believe that.

The idea that possessed Regan killed Burke Dennings and took on the personality of him is hard for Chris to come to terms with. She has to protect her from not just this demon but from the detective coming too close to the truth. Its odd though how the demon takes on these personalities and it isn't really explained just that it's probably the demon trying to get into your head.

When Chris finally decides to talk to Karras, she is at her wits end. Unsure if her relationship with her daughter will ever be the same, she has to find someway to get Regan back.

Father Karras
Father Karras

In the book the detective actually shows a level of interest in Karl, a man who takes care of some things in the house. Karl as a drug addict daughter who is keeping secret from his wife in order to spare her the shame. So when he can't truthfully answer where he was the night Burke Dennings was killed, the detective digs deeper.

It doesn't mean a whole lot to the story but it gives the reader perspective on the minor characters in the story and the darkness that surrounds them all.

For example Chris is dealing with her fear of death and divorce from her husband. There's Karras and his dealing with his mother's death and recently increasing lack of faith. Each character for the most part has some darkness. Except for what seems to be Father Merrin. He knows exactly what he's dealing with and from what we can see he remains the same, strong in faith, just not strong in body.

'..."The first infestation, consists of an attack through the victim's surroundings: noises, odors, the displacement of objects without visible cause; and the second, obsession...'" (243)

All signs of which occur at the MacNeal's temporary living space. Karras struggles with all that occurs. (Personally he's the most interesting character in the book and film) He struggles not only with this demon he battles to the death but with his own personal demons. Not literally of course. But mentally, he can't seem to hold onto his faith and when he loses his mother he can't seem to know just how to cope. In a way his helping Regan was not only a distraction to his pain but a way of redeeming his faith and what he believed to be lack of help to his mother.


"At the bottom of M Street, Karras lay crumpled and bloody as a crowd began gathering around him". (366)

In the end the only way to defeat the demon was to take in the demon and kill its host.

Chris, mother of Regan, was a lacking character in the sense she seemed to fill all the stereotypical qualities of her time and profession. Being an actress in the 70's she wasn't quite as instinctual as she could have been with her daughter. She relied on doctors who they themselves said there wasn't a lot to be known about the illnesses she could maybe have. They weren't sure, and kept putting her off asking for a psychiatrist.

Karras had the most development. Clearly grasping his faith back in the end, but it shows that he fought for something he believed in even if he was losing hope. He battled both psychical and mental demons and came out better in the end.

Regan, well she was lucky she would never have to remember any of it at all.

As I said earlier. The film was almost exactly like the book. However, reading the book gave insight into how the author really saw each character. The mother is a little less likable in the book then in the film. Regan remains the same, and somehow Karras becomes more fascinating. We also get to know the minor characters a little better and exactly what kind of role they play and why they provide a variety of examples of the darkness that envelops all our lives.

If you've read the book, I would love your opinions on it. If you've only seen the movie, still would live your insight. And if you've done neither, well you should. Sometimes even things with meaning, can make your skin crawl.

The Film

Cast your vote for The Exorcist

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