The Films of William Peter Blatty by Mike Baron

THE FILMS OF WILLIAM PETER BLATTY

Blatty wrote The Exorcist, which remains the greatest horror film of all time. The Exorcist lays its chilly finger on our spines by successfully conjuring belief in supernatural evil. All good supernatural horror films do this, including The Haunting, The Orphanage, and Sinister. There are hundreds of failures such as The Gate or Drag Me To Hell.

The Exorcist was such a hit, Warner Brothers sought to cash in with the vomitous Exorcist II, about which less said the better. Blatty insisted on writing and directing Exorcist III, based on his novel Legion. Exorcist III  finds DC Detective Kinderman (George C. Scott replacing Lee J. Cobb) investigating a series of grisly murders that bear the hallmark of the Gemini Killer, who died fifteen years ago (when The Exorcist took place.)

This is a genuinely creepy film with a few hair-raising minutes, that successfully recreates the atmosphere of the original. Blatty knows how to raise a hackle, and his team of players is superb. Brad Dourif executes a monologue in his padded cell that is both funny and terrifying. Dourif should have got an Oscar nod. Jason Miller returns as the tormented Father Karras, but you have to see the film to understand.

Years later, Warner’s went rooting about in their midden heap and produced two sequels, Renny Harlin’s ridiculous Exorcist: The Beginning, and Paul Schrader’s Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Eh! Who needs them?

The Ninth Configuration is based on Blatty’s “Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane,” and concerns a group of disturbed veterans sequestered in a Gothic castle deep in the Oregon woods. “In an experimental government center for troubled Vietnam veterans, the inmates run the asylum. One works on an adaptation of Shakespeare…for dogs. Another fancies himself a caped superhero. Still others masquerade as frogmen, nurses, nuns, pirates, doctors. Yet the psychiatrist in charge eyes all with a stoic reserve. Maybe too stoic: there’s a mystery here. And its final resolution is like a thunderclap”

One of the reasons I like it is because it most closely resembles a Badger movie (about which more anon.) Blatty’s stock group, including Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Scott Wilson, Moses Gunn and Robert Loggia, are mesmerizing. Stacey Keach plays the new CO who threatens to explode. My friends, although I hesitate to shove my secret love into the spotlight, there it is.

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