R.I.P. William Peter Blatty
I was ten years old.
My mom was in Mexico for the week.
My Dad suggested we watch a movie.
All seemingly innocuous - The craziest shit seems to come out of moments like these.
It wasn’t an ordinary evening. Not because of my mother’s absence, more so because of my father’s presence. He was a businessman, a hard-working man who loved his family dearly, but was very mostly absent. My brothers and I were raised with principles of being in bed at a certain time – especially on a school night, saying grace before every meal, and certain entertainment was off limits. I had no idea that the movie that my dad would suggest that night would change my life forever. I knew it was no ordinary night, with my mother gone, allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch what would be my very first horror movie. All the lights were off, the couch covered in blankets. Our fists full of popcorn. On the 50’’ screen while scenes of a house appeared, then of a statue of what I assumed was the Virgin Mary, the noises. As my anticipation grew, I remember the sound of frenzy and fury. Even in my memories, it’s loud – too loud. It itched itself under my skin in time for the screen to go black.
William Peter Blatty
I watched intently, at the edge of my seat, through the cracks I made with my fingers because my hands covered my face.
-As Regan came crawling down the stairs bent over backward - the sight on the screen stuck with me for decades - I jumped back 3ft and in one fluid movement was back in my spot on the couch, cowering under a blanket.-
No other horror experience would shake me like that scene did. I reached my tiny ten-year-old emotional limit.
But I was also going through a very cerebral ordeal. The experience for me as a child was a stressful one. It was like solving an intricate puzzle while the devil was literally in the background. I questioned my beliefs. I questioned reality, I questioned … what else are my parents hiding from me?
I grew up in a stringent Christian household, there was no cussing, no hitting, and there was no fucking yourself with a crucifix.
That would getcha grounded for sure...
At ten I was not allowed to question my beliefs or wander out of the realm of my family given faith. And there all over the screen was the devil – inside of a little girl, who said things that brought that faith to a precipice. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the movie led me to theology and a lifelong study of religion, philosophy, and horror. I have been chasing the high from fright since that day. It was the first step taken decades ago that eventually led to me writing my book. Five days ago, if I’m honest, the “news” roll on my Facebook told me that the man that I owe that too, William Peter Blatty, died.
I feel hugely sentimental about this loss to the industry and world, and I feel like a massive punk for never having read the book.
So in honour of losing an enormous* talent that impacted my life in what I feel was a small but major way, I went out and bought The Exorcist today, to read immediately. And I am putting it all out there in saying
how much I truly appreciated Mr. Blatty.
*I have synonyms for ‘big’ for days – don’t even play.