The Exorcist, arguably the greatest horror film of all time and a Halloween favorite, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
In 1969 William Peter Blatty–secluded in a Lake Tahoe cabin from 11 o’clock and throughout each night–penned the haunting story of a young girl possessed by a demon. For most of us, the movie summons deep thoughts of good and evil, existence, afterlife and the role of faith.
Yet, strangely enough, prior to The Exorcist Blatty was known for his screenplays about the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, played by Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther comedies.
According to Blatty, the great success of The Exorcist curtailed his comic writing career, but he has no regrets. “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.”
In Blatty’s opinion, the reason that the tale has endured is a result of the afterlife themes of the story. Blatty contends that afterlife does not mean the end of existence. “I’m not sure of what’s there,” he says, “but it isn’t oblivion.” The author points out that nine out of 10 Americans believe in God and that they believe in the Devil as well. Clearly, Blatty thinks one can be possessed, if not by the Devil then by emotions like rage and jealousy. And these can trouble anyone, regardless of their beliefs.
Blatty was inspired to write The Exorcist based on a story that he heard while a student at Georgetown University in Washington DC. When the film was spawned by the success of the bestselling novel, it took America by storm. Crowds flocked to the theaters and oftentimes shows would be interrupted by screaming audience members. Moreover, the film introduced the “possession genre” that is often imitated today but rarely as effectively.
Blatty has other passions than writing. Saddened by the Georgetown University’s loss of its commitment to Catholicism and the founding Jesuits, Blatty submitted a petition Ex corde Ecclesiae to the Vatican, signed by thousands requesting that Georgetown lose its Catholic and Jesuit designation. Georgetown’s choice of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health, Obamacare Czar, and staunch pro-abortion advocate, to give last year’s commencement speech invoked fury in Blatty, who called it the “last straw.”
The university defends itself claiming, “Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger.” But Blatty begs to differ and feels, “It’s a fallen world,” and that it’s time to demonstrate some tough love. He has taken up a cause to hold his alma mater, Georgetown University, accountable. “If you truly love someone that you think needs to be in rehab, you’ll do everything you possibly can to get them into rehab,” Blatty says.