The Exorcist as a movie was one of those films my parents didn’t want me to watch. There were never restrictions on what I could read, so that was always my loophole. Besides, my imagination is usually much scarier than what’s on the screen.
The book scared me as a kid. The idea that imaginary friends, like Captain Howdy in the book, could really be demons ready to vacation in my skin was frightening.
As an adult and a parent, I read it differently. It reads more like ignored child of busy starlet entertains herself by opening herself to demons. I can’t imagine knowing my child was playing with an Ouija board alone and was talking to someone through it; I would freak out with sage and salt and holy water and Florida water.
Early in the book, Regan tries to show her mother how she talks to Captain Howdy through the board, and then they both just walk away. Superstitious me was screaming, “NO!!!! You have to close the connection! You have to end the session! Great googly moogly, this is how you get demons!” Of course, Regan becomes possessed and the story focuses on ridding her of evil.
The biggest differences for me when looking at The Exorcist as compared to the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose are the family dynamic and the priests. In Emily Rose, the family is close knit and religious. In The Exorcist, the family is a little more loosey-goosey with mom chasing her career; they are worldly, not sheltered, and not overly religious.
In Emily Rose, it is Emily herself that chooses to depart this world, to give herself over to God as a lesson to the world and a final gesture of her faith. In The Exorcist, it’s those involved in the exorcism that take death to rid Regan of evil.
Which story works better for me as a scary tale? I’m surprised to admit that right now, it’s Emily Rose, the movie with a studious good girl from a solid family. Reading The Exorcist in the context of a parent, it’s more like single parenting career-focused moms are half-assed parents that might as well have the devil for a babysitter. Yes, The Exorcist has the good against evil theme present in Emily Rose, but to me it feels a little like a lecture: stop hosting dinner parties, Chris, and focus on your daughter and maybe then she won’t pee on the rug.