Thursday, we have lost the author of one of the greatest horror novels of all time, William Peter Blatty. If you’ve never read the actual novel of The Exorcist, you’d be surprised at how effective it is, digging into your core just as much as the film version, if not more. That’s how good Blatty was. Strange though that before this novel, he was known for the most part as a comedic writer, writing several films for Blake Edwards, including the Pink Panther movie A Shot in the Dark. But once The Exorcist came out, there really was no turning back for him and he would always be known as “that guy”. But while it did pigeon hole him, he told the Washington Post in 2013, “I can’t regret The Exorcist. It’s done so much for me and for my family. And it’s given me a great deal of freedom to write what I want.”
Ever since he heard about the story about a 14-year old boy that was ‘cured’ by an exorcism in 1949, Blatty knew there was a novel in there, but it took over twenty years for it to finally come to be, in 1971. Two years later, director William Friedkin turned the book into one of the scariest films of all time, which actually got Blatty an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. A decade later, he would write a sequel to the book, called Legion, which he then adapted and directed the film version, entitled Exorcist III.
Had it not been for Blatty’s pestering of Friedkin over the years about getting the original ending of The Exorcist, we might not have ever seen some of the unused footage, such as the famous spider walking sequence. Granted, I don’t think that particular scene works, but at least we got to see it. But Blatty wanted to make sure that audiences saw the ending as not that evil has won, which some took it as when it was originally released. The extended ending makes the point stronger that good did triumph over evil. Or as Blatty put it, “That God exists and the universe itself will have a happy ending.”
Blatty passed away last Thursday at the age of 89. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time. Thank you, Mr. Blatty for giving us such a powerful story, that over forty years later, is still as powerful as when it came out.