Demonology In Dixie

The Dish

On the 40th anniversary of The Exorcist, Noel Murray ruminates on the film’s unique significance in the religious South, where he grew up:

The popularity of The Exorcist had the effect of popularizing exorcism itself—or at least that was what I heard around my school, where there were rumors of parents setting their children on fire because they thought their kids were possessed.

Give some credit (or blame) for this to [writer William Peter] Blatty’s studiousness, and [director William] Friedkin’s gifts for documentary like realism, which lent The Exorcist plausibility. Even though the demon in The Exorcist isn’t Satan—and isn’t even part of Christian mythology—the film does reinforce the idea that there are dark forces at work, requiring the righteous to remain vigilant. …

I’ve identified this mentality with the South, because that’s the part of the world I know best (and love, honestly). But The Exorcist is set mostly in…

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