The Exorcist Effect is a fascinating historical study of the ongoing relationship between horror movies and Western religious culture, with a focus on the period from 1968 to the modern day. Taking its name from the 1973 film The Exorcist, which was widely understood to be based on a true story, this book outlines a cycle in which religious beliefs and practices become the basis of films that in turn inspire religious beliefs, practices, and experiences in response. Authors Joseph P. Laycock and Eric Harrelson draw heavily from archival research to shed new light on the details of this phenomenon, in addition to incorporating interviews with horror authors, film writers, and paranormal investigators.
Drawing on psychology, sociology, and folklore studies, Laycock and Harrelson theorize how film informs religious experience and shapes religious culture. The Exorcist Effect examines the production and reception of Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973), and The Omen (1976) as seminal films in the genre; figures as Malachi Martin as well as Ed and Lorraine Warren, who inserted themselves directly into the spotlight, and the horror films that influenced and were inspired by their careers; and areas of culture where the influence of this cycle was most apparent-the Satanic Panic, religious exorcisms, and moral panic over heavy metal and the messages it was purported to spread. The final chapter considers the QAnon conspiracy theory and its numerous allusions to film as a contemporary manifestation of “The Exorcist effect.”
Ultimately, The Exorcist Effect is a deftly researched and compelling volume that is sure to interest horror buffs, religious scholars, and historians alike.
Joseph P. Laycock is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Texas State University and co-general editor for the journal Nova Religio. He is the author of several books that explore new religious movements, possession and exorcism, and moral panic.
Eric Harrelson is the Preservation Librarian at Miami University of Ohio. Harrelson has been a film festival programmer and lecturer for Other Worlds Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Harrelson has written on film studies and religious studies for The World Religions and Spirituality Project and Religion Dispatches.
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