Pazuzu is the main antagonist and demon of The Exorcist horror novels and film series, created by William Peter Blatty. Blatty derived the character from Assyrian and Babylonian mythology, where Pazuzu was considered the king of the demons of the wind, and the son of the god Hanbi. In The Exorcist Pazuzu appears as a demon who possesses Regan MacNeil.
Pazuzu is often depicted as a combination of animal and human parts with its right hand pointing upwards and its left hand downwards. It has the body of a man, the head of a lion or dog, eagle-like taloned feet, two pairs of wings, a scorpion's tail, and a serpentine penis.
Pazuzu first appeared in William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist in 1971. The novel is about a 12-year-old girl, Regan MacNeil, possessed by a demon. The demon is later revealed to be Pazuzu; though never explicitly stated to be the demon, two references were made about his statue, which was uncovered in the prologue by Father Lankester Merrin in northern Iraq. After Regan's mother worries about her daughter being possessed, Merrin and Karras arrive at her house and perform an exorcism on Regan and successfully force the demon out of Regan's body. In their struggle to free Regan from the thrall of Pazuzu, both priests perish (Merrin dies of a heart attack and Karras sacrifices himself to save Regan).
Pazuzu returns in Legion, wanting to take revenge for being thrown out of Regan's body. He does this by driving the Gemini Killer's soul into Father Damien Karras's dead body. Although not directly identified as Pazuzu, the Gemini Killer refers to "others" who would see his work continue. In the end of the novel, the Gemini Killer leaves the body of Father Karras when Kinderman accepts that he is in fact the Gemini Killer, satisfied that his work has been recognized and his past avenged.
Two years after the novel was published, The Exorcist was released in theaters as a motion picture. In the beginning of the film, Father Merrin finds a ruined statue of the demon during a dig in Iraq. The majority of the film deals with Regan's demonic possession by a being she initially refers to as "Captain Howdy." The demon is ultimately exorcised out of Regan's body after Merrin dies of a heart attack, and Father Karras sacrifices himself by luring the demon into his body and then hurling himself through a window and down the infamous flight of stairs leading down to M Street NW, in Georgetown.
In Exorcist II: The Heretic, Pazuzu is named as the demon and returns to haunt Regan. There are flashbacks of Merrin battling the demon in Regan and also flashbacks of Merrin's exorcism of Pazuzu from a boy named Kokumo in Africa many years earlier. In the end of the film, Regan and Father Lamont, who has been trying to help her, but has become possessed by Pazuzu, return to Georgetown. After a struggle, he declines Pazuzu's offer of power and Regan banishes Pazuzu, appearing in the form of locusts.
The Exorcist III takes place 15 years after the original film. The film was adapted by Blatty from his own novel. Lieutenant Kinderman, who was also in the original film, has been on a murder case about mysterious deaths committed by an anonymous person. It is later found out that Pazuzu convinced the Gemini Killer, who died at the same time as Father Karras, to inhabit his body as punishment for saving Regan. However, as result of his suicide, his brain was severely damaged, which demons/spirits need when they possess a body. The Gemini Killer spent years stimulating his brain so he would be of use, and then began committing murders by possessing the bodies of the other inhabitants of the hospital where Karras had been staying. In the end of the movie after a turbulent exorcism is done, Karras regains control of the body and asks Kinderman to kill him, which he does by shooting him in the head, keeping him from being possessed again.
In Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (two different prequels of The Exorcist), Pazuzu is shown in his first encounter with Father Merrin in Africa in the duel that "nearly kills Merrin," referenced in the very first movie. Although the plot of both of these versions center around Merrin's African exorcism many years earlier, they take a sharp departure from the original scenes in The Heretic where Merrin exorcises a young boy named Kokumo on a mountaintop. No effort was made to keep the stories consistent beyond that central idea.
Concept and creation
William Peter Blatty's creations of Pazuzu and The Exorcist were based on a heavily reported series of 1949 events in St. Louis, Missouri concerning the possession of a 14-year-old known as "Robbie Mannheim" (or sometimes "Roland Doe"). Blatty, who was a student at Georgetown University, read about the story in Washington, D.C. newspapers and created The Exorcist twenty years later.
In the first film, Linda Blair played Regan. Mercedes McCambridge provided the majority of Pazuzu's dialogue, most notably in all the scenes with Fathers Karras and Merrin. Prior to that, Pazuzu's voice is provided by Linda Blair herself in some scenes, and Ron Faber in others.
Pazuzu is mostly manifested by a swarm of locusts in Exorcist II: The Heretic, though is also shown possessing the young Regan and a young boy named Kokumo during flashback sequences. While the stand-in for the young Regan is uncredited, the possessed Kokumo was played by Joey Green, and all of Pazuzu's dialogue in the film is provided by Karen Knapp.
The Exorcist III is the only film in which Pazuzu does not have a physical manifestation, though it still does have a few lines of dialogue, which are voiced by Colleen Dewhurst.
In The Beginning and Dominion, the victims possessed by Pazuzu are played by Izabella Scorupco and Billy Crawford respectively, and the voices of Pazuzu are Rupert Degas in the former film and Mary Beth Hurt in the latter.
There are several scenes in which the viewer can see the face of Pazuzu flashing quickly on the screen in The Exorcist. In his "true form", Pazuzu resembles a rather heavy, gaunt-white face with dark rings around his dull, red eyes and brown, crooked, rotting teeth. In this form, the demon is played by actress Eileen Dietz, who underwent makeup tests for the "possessed Regan", wore one of the alternate make-ups in her role as the demon.
In Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian mythology, Pazuzu (sometimes Fazuzu or Pazuza) was the king of the demons of the wind, and son of the god Hanbi. He also represented the southwestern wind, the bearer of storms and drought. Pazuzu is the demon of the southwest wind known for bringing famine during dry seasons, and locusts during rainy seasons. Pazuzu was said to be invoked in amulets, which combat the powers of his rival, the malicious goddess Lamashtu, who was believed to cause harm to mother and child during childbirth. Although Pazuzu is, himself, an evil spirit, he drives away other evil spirits, therefore protecting humans against plagues and misfortunes. (In the film, when the Iraqi museum curator sees Merrin looking at the amulet, he says, "Evil against evil".)
Wilfred Lambert (1968) identified a fibula with a Pazuzu head at Tel Megiddo, and also a Sumerian-Akkadian invocation.
Notes and trivia
- Before confronting the demon inside Regan, Father Karras had a brief glimpse of Pazuzu while dreaming about his mother.
- The demon mask used in the movie Onibaba (1964) inspired Friedkin to use a similar design for the makeup in the shots.
- Linda Blair refused to have the heavy make-up applied on her in The Heretic.
- Mercedes McCambridge regurgitated on a mixture of chewed, mushy apple and raw egg to produce the sound effect of Regan's projectile vomiting.
- McCambridge and Linda Blair never met in real life.
- The sound of the demon leaving Regan's body is actually the sound of pigs being herded for slaughter. This alludes to a story in the New Testament where Jesus cast out several demons, collectively called Legion, from a man and transfers them into the bodies of pigs. The pigs are then drowned, similar to Father Karris dying after accepting the demon.
- The demon that possesses Regan MacNeil is named Pazuzu in the script, but this name is never mentioned in any cut of the film. During the film, Pazuzu lies to Father Damien Karras claiming to be the Devil/Satan himself. Conversations with Father Lankester Merrin show this claim to be false.
- Linda Blair's make-up reportedly included pizza dough.
- In the novel, the possessed Regan has diarrhea and frequently relieves herself. Because of this she has to wear diapers. It is also frequently mentioned in the book that her bedroom has an almost unbearable stench.
- Mercedes McCambridge, who provided the voice of the demon, insisted on swallowing raw eggs and chain smoking to alter her vocalizations. Furthermore, the actress who had problems with alcohol abuse in the past, wanted to drink whiskey as she knew alcohol would distort her voice even more, and create the crazed state of mind of the character. As she was giving up sobriety, she insisted that her priest be present to counsel her during the recording process. At William Friedkin's direction, McCambridge was also bound to a chair with pieces of a torn sheet at her neck, arms, wrists, legs and feet to get a more realistic sound of the demon struggling against its restraints. McCambridge later recalled the experience as one of horrific rage, while Friedkin admitted that her performance--as well as the extremes which the actress put herself through to gain authenticity--terrifies the director to this day.
- Although Mercedes McCambridge provided Pazuzu's lines from the moment when Karras confronts the possessed Regan for the first time up until the final confrontation, Linda Blair and Ron Faber also provided lines for Pazuzu. Blair's voice can be heard when the possessed Regan screams "Fuck me!" in a raspy, high-pitched voice. Faber provided two lines in this same scene, but he also recorded Pazuzu's lines during the entire "demonic head-spin" scene and he also provided a growl in the sequence where Karras is possessed by the demon.
- McCambridge had to sue Warner Brothers for credit as the voice of the demon. William Friedkin, on the Diane Riehm Show (NPR, 29 April 2012) said that originally she didn't want a credit, saying that she wanted the audience to believe the voice was Regan's. However, after it was released she changed her mind, and was given the credit.
- Linda Blair received her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination before it was widely known that previous Supporting Actress winner Mercedes McCambridge had actually provided the voice of the demon. By Academy rules once Blair was given the nomination it could not be withdrawn, but the controversy about Blair being given credit for another actress' work ruined her chances of winning the award.
- Besides Mercedes McCambridge's lawsuit for credit on the film, Eileen Deitz also charged that she played the role of the demon during the exorcism scene. Director William Friedkin denies this, and has cited that Deitz's actual screen time is less that one minute, as she served as little more than a body double for Linda Blair. Nevertheless, Deitz, as of 2014, continues to promote herself as "Captain Howdy," the demon from this film, in interviews and at horror conventions around the world.
- Ken Nordine was considered for the demon's voice, but William Friedkin thought it would be best not to use a man's voice.
- William Friedkin originally intended to use Linda Blair's voice, electronically deepened and roughened, for the demon's dialogue. Although Friedkin felt this worked fine in some places, he felt scenes with the demon confronting the two priests lacked the dramatic power required.
- According to William Friedkin, the subliminal shots of the white faced demon are actually rejected makeup tests for Regan's possessed appearance.
- In 2015, the Massachusetts-based wrestling promotion Beyond Wrestling's top heel faction was called Team Pazuzu.
- Pazuzu is often depicted as a combination of animal and human parts with his right hand pointing upwards and his left hand downwards.
- The giant demonic statue that Father Merrin sees at the beginning is Pazuzu.
- The statue of "Pazuzu" was accidentally sent to Hong Kong, before arriving on location in Iraq.
- The original teaser trailer, which consisted of nothing but images of the white-faced demon quickly flashing in and out of darkness, was banned in many theaters, as it was deemed "too frightening".
- In The Exorcist television series, the "Salesman" is a rebooted version of Pazuzu.
- Pazuzu is the final boss in the video game The Exorcist: Legion VR.