Article by Alicia Lovewell
In 1973, on the day after Christmas, the Exorcist premiered in theaters everywhere to public acclaim and outcry. The film’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel by the same name won a whopping 10 Academy Awards and international prestige and to this day remains one of the most stigmatizing films in horror cinema history.
But what is it about ‘The Exorcist’ that is so polarizing and disturbing that well over 4 decades later we are still so collectively captivated? Perhaps it’s the sheer terror of watching a child suffer at the hands of an unknown aggravator, perhaps it’s the visceral realism of the characters that captures us, the struggle of a priest in a crisis of faith and a family targeted by an unknown foe in a time of familial upheaval. One thing is certain, ‘The Exorcist’ has unceasingly continued to inspire and fascinate viewers well into the Modern Age.
Grammy nominated composer/producer David Schuler of the Bad Dreamers is no exception; having seen ‘The Exorcist’ several times over the years, his latest single ‘Georgetown’ dives into the perspective of Father Damian Karras, the battle of his faith, and his fight to save the life and soul of young Regan MacNeil. The lyrics of ‘Georgetown’ are told through Karras’ perspective, in a hypothetical conversation between himself and the ‘Devil’, who is actually the demon Pazuzu.
“When we meet Damian, we quickly learn that he is deeply conflicted with his faith. This immediately begs so many questions, simply due to the fact that he himself is a Jesuit Psychiatrist; for every illogical demand that his faith requires him to wholly believe, I imagine that he would then spend countless hours unpacking the craziness of it all into some form of logic as a psychiatrist…I can’t help but assume that this struggle would spiral, endlessly.
It’s also important to note that Damian is a fighter, with a previous career in amateur boxing leading up to his pursuit in the church and that his relationship with his mother both indicates that he resents her in her later years but also clung to her like a young boy. He is single, presumably, with no children or ex-wife.”
Midnight on the boulevard, on my way right back to you
Devil lurking in the dark, you twist her like you twist the truth
It’s such a shame, she’s beautiful; she never would have played those games
But who can tell if she’s the one that let it all go down in flames?
“The first two lines are exposition: Damian is on his way to face the ‘devil’,(Pazuzu) who is (literally) twisting Regan, as well as twisting all truth around her as a tactic of fear. Regan would have never played with that Ouija board had her mother or father been truly present in her life; so was it the game itself that opened the door to her soul, or, the vulnerability of a child with no attention from her parents in her most formidable years? It’s also interesting that the film never introduces Damian to the Ouija board, and that he never outright questions what could have invited the demon into her.”
Liar liar liar,
I know I shouldn’t play with fire
Fire fire fire,
But I’m preaching to the choir, preaching to the choir
Damian knows the demon is a liar, but the film also strongly indicates that he is in no condition to take on the exorcism. He is mentally and spiritually unfit and even he knows this. It’s horrible but more-so ironic to imagine a priest confessing that he ‘shouldn’t play with fire’. He is then, as it saying goes, ‘preaching to the choir’, and the choir, in this case, is the demon Pazuzu masquerading as the devil himself.
I’ll try my best to call you out
Let’s finish what we started soon
Devil in a haunted house
I’m here to make a deal with you
“Ultimately, Damian says to Pazuzu ‘Take me! Take ME!’, and the demon of course cannot resist this offer…But was it a heroic act to save a little girl, or was it his own manipulated way of running from the pain in his life and finally committing suicide?”
“I think the irony of all of this is that there are ultimately no answers. There were sequels that presented some interesting ideas, particularly in legion (novel) which became The Exorcist III (film), but all of the questions I have will likely remain unanswered and I think I’m fine with that.”
Stream / Purchase “Georgetown”: