I’m not ashamed to say I bought this one on the strength of that cover. Sure, 80s nostalgia is fast reaching saturation point – thanks a lot Stranger Things – but I’m still enjoying it.
The 80s were in many ways the heyday of horror, giving us everything from Nightmare on Elm Street to The Evil Dead; Friday the 13th to The Fly; Poltergeist to The Thing to The Shining.
Amid loosening censorship, the genre was more serious and confronting than ever before, pushing the boundaries of taste and audience endurance – but there was still room for comedy and camp. It was a time before the rise of relentless torture porn, when horror had a bit of heart – and not just of the variety routinely torn still beating from rib cages.
In that sense, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is actually a fitting scion of that legacy. It has a typically campy setup: hot teenage girl possessed by demon. It goes hard on the grossout: read the tapeworm or cockroach scenes if you don’t believe me.
But most importantly, it’s got heart. The friendship between Gretchen, the unwilling demon vessel, and Abby, the best friend trying to save her, is surprisingly realistic, complex and – by the end – even poignant. In some ways, it’s a more believable relationship than those between the teenage protagonists I discussed in Girls on Fire and The Burning Girl. Where those books relied on melodrama and relentless realism respectively in telling their tales of wayward adolescence, Hendrix’s book uses Buffy The Vampire Slayer-style metaphor to powerful effect.
This book is better than it has any right to be.