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The Exorcist ....Subject: Genre
The Exorcist

William Peter Blatty's screenplay for "The Exorcist"
( is part of a sub-genre of horror known as the religious thriller.

This sub-genre utilizes several storytelling elements: religious objects, religious crimes, biblical curses, archetypes, a three-stage process, and a conflict in which a protagonist fights with an antagonist over the soul of an innocent person.

At the beginning of "The Exorcist," we are shown the religious object that will serve as a main element of the story: a statue of the demon, Pazuzu.

When Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a young girl, becomes demonically possessed, a superimposed image of this statue appears onscreen with her, showing that the discovery of the statue is the source of her state of demonic possession.

While in this state of possession, Regan kills film director Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran) by twisting "his head completely around" and throwing him from her bedroom window. Though not seen onscreen, this murder is the religious crime that serves as the focus of the story.

Father Damien Karras's (Jason Miller) attempts to return Regan to a state of physical and psychological normalcy are depicted in three stages: the possession, the investigation, and the exorcism.


In the first stage, the possession, he is contacted by Regan's mother, Actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), who begs him to give Regan an exorcism because she believes Regan is possessed and can't be helped by psychologists or doctors.

In the second stage, the investigation, Father Karras investigates the nature of Regan's illness, trying to determine if she is indeed truly possessed by a demon.

In the third stage, the exorcism, Karras actually conducts an exorcism on Regan.

By completing this three-stage process, he actually becomes an archetype kown as the exorcist.

An archetype is a specific type of person.

During the course of his interactions with Regan, an innocent girl who had never harmed a single person before her state of possession, Father Karras acts as the protagonist battling the antagonist, Pazuzu, the demon possessing Regan.

Karras is unaware that, as an exorcist, he is cursed to die in place of Regan, the innocent.  That is his fate.

In the last scene, he punches the possessed girl and taunts the demon possessing her by saying, "Come on! Try me! Take me! Come into me!"

The demon jumps into his body, possessing him. But, Karras won't let it win. He jumps out a bedroom window onto a stone staircase and tumbles down the stairs, landing as a bloody mass at the bottom, mortally wounded.

So, as a religious thriller, "The Exorcist" mixes triumph with tragedy, humbling us as this sub-genre should.

Screenwriters should study this story as an example of how to create a religious thriller.

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How To Write A Religious Thriller
Would you like to write a screenplay that will sell?'s 6-page screenwriting exercise, "How To Write A Religious Thriller," can help you write a screenplay that contains the best elements of "The Exorcist" and "The Omen"--horror films that are part of a popular sub-genre known as the religious thriller.

Just answer the questions in the exercise, and you'll end up with a great screenplay.

Read an exciting
excerpt from the screenwriting exercise,
How To Write A Religious Thriller !"


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