Tag Archives: William Peter Blatty

Terrifying Reads For A Scary Halloween! Book Recommendations Part I 

It’s the best time of the year! The days grow darker, nights are longer, and there’s a crispness in the air that all point to the spooky season we’ve waited for all year long. We all know we’ll busy ourselves with planned horror movie marathons to keep us glued to the screen long into the wee hours of early morning, but there’s just something special about a good scary book to enhance the eerie needs around this time of year. 

Perfect time to pick out that blood-curdling spine-chiller to curl up with under a warm blanket . So warm your apple cider, grab a goody to go along with it, and join us over here at the Nightmare as we go over some terrifying choices to haunt your dreams for weeks to come. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

The gothic classic that’s ravaged the psyche of generations ever since its grim release. The infamous story of grave robbing and the perpetual pursuit of mankind’s need to tamper with things only God is meant to wield. Arrogantly death itself is challenged by the book’s titular character as he slips further away from the lighted world of his friends and loved ones and entraps himself in a world of darkness and isolation as the insidious work of his own hands rises from the slab to hunt down and pay revenge upon all Victor Frankenstein holds dear. No one is safe from the monster’s relentless grasp. 

I read this back when I was 17 and instantly fell in love with the narrative and cinematic scope its writer, Mary Shelley, seized in words and tone. It remains one of my top 5 absolute favorite books and is a true loss to any horror reader who has yet to discover its black magic. The movies this single book has inspired is in the hundreds so why not come into the dark with Victor and me to see true mastery of the written craft at work. You may not leave the same though. 

Not only is it one of the earliest among gothic horror but it’s heavily influenced genres such as body horror and science fiction alike. Highly influential and violently poetic.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

This book is chilling and it’s no wonder the movie adaptation scared the devil out of the world and earned the title of ‘scariest movie ever made.’

The devil is real, at least between the covers of Blatty’s book. Upon its publication, people were not ready for the sorcery presented herein. Surely the Devil could not exist in a world of science and education. These aren’t the Dark Ages after all. But Blatty reintroduced Satan – and all his foul little ways – back to the human psyche.

Certainly the Devil was not a new concept and this wasn’t the first book to give Satan the spotlight, but there was simply something authentic, yes, indeed very real about Blatty’s presentation of evil. One that poked a cold and bony finger into the lower spine of society. 

One of my professors at seminary went to question Blatty about this book and challenge him for falsely handling the topic of exorcism. The very opposite thing happened though as my professor left (after meeting with the writer) entirely convinced the man was well aware of the occult and the supernatural dangers surrounding it. 

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros/Hoya Prods./Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885474g) The Exorcist (1973) The Exorcist – 1973 Director: William Friedkin Warner Bros/Hoya Productions USA Scene Still Horror L’Exorciste

The Exorcist took Satan out of the boiling pits of Hell, a vivid image everyone had in mind since the release of Dante’s Inferno, and also away from robed and darkly cloaked covens, a thing typically associated with the Prince of Darkness, and dropped him right inside the everyday home of any family. The Devil’s target is not the rich and powerful, but the young, the innocent, and, most importantly, the pure in heart. This was a Devil you couldn’t kill with a stake through the heart, holy water, or prayer. The message was Satan is far greater than we are ready to deal with. And it doesn’t matter if you believe in him or not. If he’s invited in – no matter how innocently – he will not turn down the invitation. 

Upon its publication, the whole tone of horror books changed for the following two decades to come. 

Doubtless, you’ve watched the movie. It may be time to pick up the book and let its haunting merits enter your mind. 

The Rats by James Herbert

It’s nothing short of a travesty that James Herbert is not talked about more among horror bookworms. When’s the last time you saw a book boasting his name? Can you believe this guy was all the rage back in the ‘70s? This guy was taking the world by storm with his macabre visions and graphic details. 

They say the devil’s in the details and they’re right! Especially when it comes to the grotesque mastery of this one man’s writing skills. He just knows the perfect spot – the one that that’ll hurt the most – to stab and get under your skin. Not only that, but he will gleefully start scraping a nerve before you can beg for the whole nasty ordeal to stop. And he’ll do so with a pleasant smile – one only the English can muster – on his face. He’s a lovely chap but a true sadist with a typewriter. 

In The Rats, we are given exactly what we’re expecting from a title like this. That is if you’re expecting to read a book about legions (I mean legions too) of greasy overgrown rats set upon tearing the citizens of London to weeping bloody shreds. No one is safe from these violent, blood-thirsty terrors either. 

Think a sweet old woman is gonna make it just because, well, she’s an old woman? Well, that’s rich. She gets it pretty bad. And, if memory serves me correctly, she gets taken down and torn apart because she had the audacity to rush over and help some other poor soul being attacked. That’ll teach ya for being nice! 

How grizzly is this book? Well by the time you get to chapter three a baby has already been flooded by a living flow of red eyes, yellow teeth, and no mercy. And just for good measure, as if a fine fuck you especially from the writer, in the same instance the rats kill a puppy as they chew the bones away from the baby. That’s the kind of book you’re getting yourself into.

It’s brilliant stuff for the gorehounds out there. It’s messy and it’s almost smelly like you can sense the filthy sewers these giant feral things swarm out of.  And this book has nothing in common with the Bruno Mattei film, Rats: Night of Terror. In case you were wondering.

Just imagine yourself sitting at a red light when suddenly – and for no good reason – your car is gnawed through by rats. You are trapped. Your instinct is to get out but when you look out the window the whole road is alive with flesh-hungry rats. You cannot escape and can only sit and wait for the pain the stop as you slip into the embrace of the Abyss. That’s the genius of The Rats. I guess it bears similarity with a zombie plague, that overwhelming sense of ‘escapelessness.’ Something about knowing we, human beings, are victims to nature really has a way of chewing us up. 

Not for the faint of heart but is perfect for a great creepy feeling as the world hides in shadows… what else might be hiding out there with the night? Be wary of things that can scurry across the floor and climb up into your bed and glide like phantoms under the sheets. 

James Herbert needs to be more recognized by us horror fans. The man was brilliant. 

Off Season by Jack Ketchum

Let’s keep it nasty, shall we? Many fans might be surprised I didn’t go with his The Girl Next Door and I do recommend it. But Off Season fits the fall mood more, kind of like the title suggests. 

It’s the perfect time to go relax at that cabin by the lake. Or so our cast of characters think. What awaits them though is a painful and agonizing fate wrought by a feral family who lives in secret out in the woods and who hungrily stalk any poor soul who has the shit fortune to pass by. 

The book opens with a Good Samaritan (the Hell is it with these stories punishing folks for being nice?) stopping her car to help a seemingly injured young girl. It’s all a sickening ruse as the kind woman soon finds herself in a ring of dirty, smelling, inbred teenagers who see her as less than human. They came to play and she’s the toy. The ruthlessness depicted at the story’s beginning lets the reader know that the main cast of unsuspecting characters (to come) is in for Hell. 

Jack Ketchum was my mentor and I miss him dearly. The man is the reason why I’m writing today and it all began with me picking up this book from (get this) Wal-Mart of all places! I like to think some soccer mom also picked up a copy and threw it away in disgust once she realized just what the fuck she purchased. 

This is splatterpunk kind of stuff and proves that pain is scary and the human body has very little worth in the eyes of psychopaths. 

Psycho by Robert Bloch

I feel it fitting to end this first part with the book that creeped out the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The man could not put this book down and it drove him to make the one horror film that would dare change the tone and attitude for horror movies for ever. Much like, I might add, The Exorcist did. 

We’ve all seen the movie (I mean assumedly) and know the story very well. However, and very interestingly, unlike the movie’s adaptation that follows Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane, the book makes us follow Norman Bates. It gets uncomfortable too as poor dumpy Norman casually talks with Mother come morning to night. It had to have been fun for early readers not to know (SPOILERS!!!!!!!) Mother is in fact dead and he’s interacting with dried-out husk. 

Like I said we have to tag along with Norman Bates. If you read this book there’s simply no choice. We become unwilling voyeurs into the daily routines of a man who is not at all right in the head. And there is no reflection of Anthony Perkins in this Norman Bates. None of that handsome and clean-shaven man of mystery.

The book did inspire sequels, just like the movie did, but I’ve not had the chance to read those yet. Although I’ve heard that they greatly differ from the cinematic continuation. Speaking of which I do strongly recommend the film sequels. They have no business being as good as they are and I think horror fans get cheated for not giving the movies a chance. I snubbed my nose at them because, well, how dare they make a sequel to Psycho? But to my surprise, the films really hold up. Ok tangent over… I guess I should get copies of the book sequels too.

The Psychology Of The Scare: Gerontophobia In Horror Films

I’ve always been under the impression horror is what you make of it. Stories and films relay on our innermost fears and phobias to make an impression with the viewer, hence the art of the scare. I don’t care if you’re badass Kurt Russell or Samuel L. Jackson, everyone has one thing or another that makes them uncomfortable.

Horror films have utilized a wide-range of phobias to attract audiences to give them the “safe” scare adrenaline rush. Sub-genre horror movies with the focus on clowns, kids, psychological warfare are some of the most popular among fanfare. However personally speaking, the use of older folks in horror films as the core of fears is some of the most powerful I’ve seen – and most effective. GERONTOPHOBIA, which means the fear of elders or aging, is actually a fairly common fear amongst the populous. We associate looking at our elders with our own mortality and it can be a hard pill to swallow- so we place a heavy fear on it. As authoritarian as it sounds to place our once care-givers who have aged in years at the center of what we fear most sounds inhuman at best, in horror cinema it works to a degree; and all too well.

I mean, who WOULDN’T be horrified of this?!

The first film I saw as a young girl with an elder in a terrifying role was that of Julian Beck’s portrayal of the malevolent Henry Kane in Poltergiest II. That being said, I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the only one his performance affected in a unfavorable manner. To this very day I get very anxious when an elder comes knocking on my door mostly thanks to his frightening exchange with Craig T. Nielson in front of the Freeling home. Knowing later in my older years, Beck was suffering from pancreatic cancer and basically dying at the time of filming haunts me in waves of periodic guilt trips for being so petrified of the man; who literally giving a dying performance and the one most people remember him by. Whether that was his intention, and I’m sure it was to give it his all, I still can’t help but feel horrible that I myself associated his deathly appearance with such fear; and still kind of do. Little Heather O’ Rourke was so afraid of her on-screen antagonist that she cried and ran away from him on set upon first seeing him. I’m not sure if the mall scene in the movie IS the actual first time she saw him as I can’t confirm it at this time, but knowing that it did indeed happen as stated by crew members, makes this scene all the more believable.

That had to have stung.

Four years later came a more prominent display of gerontophobia in film in the form of William Peter Blatty’s TRUE sequel to The Exorcist, The Exorcist III based off Blatty’s PHENOMINAL novel Legion. Most of the story is set in the gloomy atmosphere of a hospital, particularly in the disturbed wards and of those suffering from dementia and catatonics. The demon this time around, James Venamun, ‘The Gemini Killer” has possessed a once-thought deceased Damian Karras and is tormenting both the fallen priest and old friend Kinderman (George C. Scott) as a revenge tactic on behalf of “friends” for the McNeill incident 15 years prior. If that couldn’t get any more fucked up, the Gemini hops from body to body in the wards possessing the older dementia victims and feeble-minded to carry out murderous acts; hammering home how vulnerable and horrifying it can be to age. Because now we have to worry about getting possessed by demons to boot.

Fantastic.

A more recent film by Adam Robitel, The Taking of Deborah Logan works on the same concept as The Exorcist III except the entire film is focused on this matter and not just an excerpt. Miss Deborah Logan (Jill Larson) is slowly slipping away with Alzheimer’s but something is obviously more sinister afoot with an actual possession going on here. This one really leans into the fears of mortality within us all and what happens when we have reached that bridge in our life span. The pain and the suffering can be tremendous and not only affects us as individuals, but our loved ones as well. The reality of the matter at hand is, if we so happen to live beyond our 70’s and 80’s, it is most likely to come with some painful challenges such as a degenerative disease as terrifying as that of Alzheimer’s- which mind you is displayed pretty accurately in this movie. If one has never suffered from good ol’ gerontophobia prior to seeing this one, chances are you’ll at least be thinking about it soon after.

There are many other film I could list here, some notable ones like The Visit or Ghost Story, but I think you guys are smart and get the point here. Old age in itself can be a source of true horror and is obviously an effective tactic as plot point in the genre. However, it can also be very damning unfortunately and further put a damper on our views of aging. The human experience is one hell of a ride isn’t it? Let’s just hope we don’t piss off any demonic entities’ along the way as we grow into our twilight years.

A Few Things You Might Not Know About “The Exorcist III”

I fondly remember the fateful night in 1990where my father, uncle, my cousin and an eight-year-old Patti made a Saturday night trip to our favorite local movie theater that stood as possibly, one of the last retro looking movie houses in all of Las Vegas. This might sound silly as of course, this was 1990, but I’m talking SUPER RETRO here. The entire building was made of brick, popcorn stands where mere popcorn and hot dog carts inside the lobby with a few cases of candy on the side, velvet red curtains covered the theater screens until showtime commenced, and the GIANT illuminated cinema marquee sign that displayed the featured films playing, could literally be seen from miles away. The place was absolutely beautiful inside and out, (as you can see pictured below of the inside lobby) and served as the place where I had seen most of the movies growing up until its demise and demolition over 15 years ago.

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

*Shout out to ClassicLasVegas.com for this awesome photo!

It’s also the place where I first saw our movie of the day here, The Exorcist III. And yep. I remember peeing my pants a little as I was eight-goddamn-years-old in regards to that one scene. You know which one I’m talking about… And also, yes. The two grown men and older teenage male cousin laughed at the eight-year-old girl who produced a squirt of nature’s lemonade.

Dicks.

*MAJOR SPOILER HERE. DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVEN’T LIVED AND HAVE DONE A DISSERVICE TO YOUR LIFE BY NOT WATCHING THIS FILM.

 

As fun as it is to reminisce about peeing the pants, let’s get to the real topic here. If you’re here and still reading, chances are you’re a fan of the HIGHLY UNDERRATED psychological-thriller based off William Peter Blatty’s fantastic novel, Legion; which of course, serves as the true direct sequel to The Exorcist. So, we’re going to skip all the captain obvious bullshit plot explanations and get right into some shit that you may or may not know about this film. And hell, if you watch it again with a new knowledge and some more appreciation, well stunning. I’ve done my job here.

 

1. The Exorcist III Was Jeffrey Dahmer’s Favorite Movie

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

Well, a film that focuses on another serial killer doesn’t seem far-fetched as a favorite of one of America’s most notorious, eh? According to various old reports, Dahmer would watch the movie over, and over. And even watched portions of the film with some of his victims after bringing them back to his apartment. One of these men was one who had escaped- Tracy Edwards, who claims the film was on at the time he was guided around the apartment by Dahmer. Reports also claim that Dahmer had purchased contact lenses with yellow tint, to mimic The Gemini Killer.

 

2. They Snuck In A Reference To The Fly II

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

As I may have stated in previous articles, my parents had no qualms about taking their young child to the theater for an extreme horror film. Becuase, hey, fuck 101 Dalmations. They didn’t have the patience for that watered down-Disney shit. So, watching this at the theater at the age of eight, I caught this one right away as I had seen The Fly II a year prior with my mother and I left the theater crying after the scene with the dog. Ugh. I still hate it. Anyway, Lee Richardson plays that asshole in that film that got his just desserts for hurting that animal and has a small part as the University President in The Exorcist III. When asked by Father Dyer what his favorite film, he replies coyly, “The Fly.”

*Also worth noting, Brad Dourif who brilliantly portrays the Gemini, references his cinematic alter-ego Chucky during one of his ramblings. In the film, he says, “It’s child’s play”, and we then cut to a scene to a young boy that resembles a Good Guy.

 

3. Both William Friedkin and John Carpenter Were Attached To Direct Before Blatty

john carpenter

Well, it certainly would have been iconic enough had OG Exorcist director William Friedkin at the helm once again, but John Carpenter?! That would have been something to see his vision of legion eh? Blatty originally collaborated with Friedkin and penned out The Exorcist III with Friedkin attached to direct. After Friedkin backed out, the project died and was turned into a novel- AKA Legion. After the success of the novel, Blatty offered out it on the market in the form of a screenplay and Morgan Creek bought the rights to make the film, whom brought on the legendary John Carpenter to direct. However, after seeing Blatty’s passion and visionary input regarding his adaptation, he stepped down to hand the reigns to the rightful owner.

 

4. A Plot Twist Was Suggested Involving Regan Macneil- And A Birth Of Possessed Twins….?!

Regan-MacNeil-From-Exorcist

This has to be the most WTF fact of them all…

Yes, this was suggested to William Peter Blatty as studios were in negotiations to adapt the screenplay by Carolco Pictures. The idea of a grown-up Regan giving birth to possessed twins completely undermines the whole idea of Legion and I don’t blame him a bit for laughing that off and settling with Morgan Creek Productions- even if they still haven’t given us a REAL directors cut of the film, at least that didn’t happen.

 

5. The Alternate Ending We Still Haven’t Seen

exorcist 3 ending

The ending we all know, and even in that Shout Factory edition, was not the intended final vision of Blatty. Reports claim it was scripted AND filmed, but we’ve still yet to see the dramatically different ending to The Exorcist III. But you know, Morgan Creek wanted that exorcism in there, so if moneybags wanted it, by God they were going to get it and the following was scrapped and reshot to their liking:

The novel Legion ends with the Gemini Killer summoning Kinderman to his cell for a final speech and then willingly dropping dead after his alcoholic Christian evangelist abusive father, finally dies from a heart attack. As his motive for killing was always to shame daddy, the Gemini’s reason for remaining on Earth ceases to exist. He then drops dead, thus freeing Karras. Albeit by death, but nevertheless releasing him from all the torture. In Blatty’s original screenplay adaptation, the ending is similar to the novel except that the Gemini’s death is not self-induced but forced supernaturally and suddenly by the death of his father.

 

The Exorcist III remains criminally underrated and if anything to the haters, (and really, who are you?) serves as a beautiful character analysis of different walks of life in the form of one chilling film. Aside from Silence f the Lambs, it stands as one of THE BEST psychological thrillers in cinematic history. Bold statement? Maybe. Perhaps you should schedule a rewatch and come back to comment to challenge me.

That’s me issuing a clear invitation to the dance. Pick up your copy from Amazon here!