books

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

My Best Friend’s Exorcism has been on my “to read” list for a while. I’ve been wanting to read this book since I saw Hugh Fleming’s illustration for the cover. The novel — written by Grady Hendrix and published in 2016 — follows Abby and Gretchen, two teenage girls who have been best friends since fifth grade, and their misadventures after Abby gets possessed by a demon. Gretchen is the only person who knows and believes in what’s happening. She understands that she cannot abandon her friend and will do everything in her power to save her, even if it means she’ll ruin her own life in the process.

Does the plot sound familiar?

My Best Friend’s Exorcism’s artwork for the paperback edition features a quote comparing the book to “The Exorcist if it were authored by Tina Fey”. However, I think the story is more similar to Jennifer’s Body (2019). To the point that I must wonder if Grady Hendrix’s book was inspired by the film. In particular, the friendship between the two protagonists — minor the queer subtext.

Jennifer’s Body was abhorred by critics and audiences upon its release back in 2009. Today the film is viewed through a different lens. Critics (especially female and queer critics) regard the film as a great feminist horror comedy. The film was written, directed and starred by women. Female friendship is what drives the story, much like in My Best Friend’s Exorcism. The horror community would be much more appreciative of a film that follows the same thematic elements as Jennifer’s Body in the current political climate — and if the project aims for the family-friendly, PG-13, Stranger Things approach it could become a highly profitable and successful film. That’s why this novel should be the next summer hit.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a page-turner. Although the story is full of tropes and somewhat frustrating situations, when it comes to the possessed girl’s antics, Hendrix develops original ideas and subverts your expectations. Since “The Exorcist” was released, the subsequent movies that explored possession from a Christian perspective all did the same things: twisted heads, levitation, projectile vomit and monologues in Latin. In contrast, Hendrix removes his characters from the Christian doctrine that accompanies these types of stories after an allegedly “legit” exorcist fails to expel Abby’s demon. When the exorcist abandons Gretchen, she is left to her own devices with no other option than to continue the exorcism herself. Seeing that a religious approach wouldn’t work, Gretchen decides to use the power of love, pop culture and ‘80s references to perform the exorcism and bring back her friend.

Nine months ago, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Happy Death Day’s director, Christopher Landon, is producing and developing the book’s film adaptation. No updates have been made public since. But we can guess this won’t be Landon’s next film because we learned thanks to discussingfilm.net that he’ll be directing what seems to be an all-new slasher film for Blumhouse. It’s a shame though, Landon sounds like the right director for this project.

I would love to see a My Best Friend’s Exorcism film, and I would be mad if this project gets stuck in development hell. Unfortunately, this happens often. Studios love to buy the rights of successful novels and ultimately do nothing with them. Nonetheless, reading this novel feels like watching a film. The writing is simple, and it could be easily transformed into a script. If you are looking for an entertaining summer read, grab a copy and imagine what a fun movie this could be –you won’t be disappointed.

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