It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Blatty’s great novel when someone writers about an exorcism. It’s like a book about a shark terrorising a small island and attempting to block out the iconic composition of John Williams. Janz’s real skill here is two fold: First is pace. Yes, it’s a novella so by its very limitations you can’t afford to meander. You have to keep things very tight. Janz does this by hitting the boards running when Father Crowder attends the house of a 15 year old boy showing signs of demonic possession. We’re then thrown into a literal Hell before we have time to blink. The second is plot. Sure, there’s every exorcism trope thrown in here, but running parallel is a second story, that of the Sweet Sixteen Killer. The town has a serial killer roaming around targeting 16 year girls. Weaving this storyline into the exorcism presents us with a extra dynamic; who is the Sweet Sixteen Killer? And more importantly, are they one of the characters in the house during the exorcism? Now we have a “who dun’it”. This is why Exorcist Road gets four stars instead of three. It’s that extra layer needed to differentiate it from its predecessor. Yes, you could say it’s more a homage to The Exorcist and Legion, whereby again, in the latter we are presented with the Gemini killer, but Janz dodges skilfully the obvious connection by making his story very claustrophobic (pretty much one setting throughout the novella) and exchanging those deep philosophical questions present in Blatty’s work for more wince-inducing gratuitous fun.
Published by craigwallwork
Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels, Bad People, Labyrinth of the Dolls, The Sound of Loneliness, To Die Upon a Kiss, and the short story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole. His short stories have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and feature in many anthologies and magazines both in the U.K. and U.S. He currently lives in West Yorkshire. View more posts