It took me three attempts to watch the movie this week. I’ve seen it several times before, but wanted it to be fresh in my mind before I wrote this. The first two times I watched it, I fell asleep. I was beginning to think the movie hadn’t aged well, or perhaps I hadn’t. On the third attempt, I stayed awake and discovered that I had simply slept through the best parts.
First of all, I must confess I’ve NEVER sat through the original The Exorcist in its entirety and the parts I’ve watched have mostly been censored for television. I read the book when I was 14 years old, but the movie just creeps me out to no end. Go figure. I also read Legion, the true sequel or continuation of the story from the first book. Loved the book. While it had some supernatural elements to it, it read more like a mystery novel or crime thriller.
The Exorcist 3 does not follow the book faithfully, even though its author, William Peter Blatty, wrote the screenplay and directed it (unfortunately William Friedkin was not available to direct.) Blatty does a great job directing, even though his vision is different than what the studio wanted, and he had to make some compromises. For me, atmosphere is one of the most important aspects of a good horror movie. I grew up on the old movies where the scariest stuff happened off screen and your imagination had to fill in the blanks. Not that this movie is short on gore. In fact, it’s much heavier on gore than The Exorcist.
The minimal score works well with the cinematography to create an almost constant atmosphere of dread and suspense. There are long sections of the movie that have no background music at all and the score is used to help elevate the “jump scare” scenes.
There is a bizarre dream sequence that is one of the weakest scenes in the movie. It has Fabio playing an angel and a then-unknown Samuel Jackson playing a blind guy. It’s only purpose seems to be to let the main protagonist, Lt. William Kinderman, played by George C. Scott, know that his friend, Father Dyer, has been killed. Father Dyer is played by a different actor as well. In the original movie, Father Dyer was played by a real priest.
Overall, the movie is well cast: Scott Wilson (Herschel from The Walking Dead) plays the nervous, chain-smoking psychiatrist who runs the mental hospital where Patient X is kept. Who Patient X turns out to be is one of the best parts about this film. But the guy who steals the show is Brad Dourif! That man is a national treasure! Dourif’s character, The Gemini Killer, was executed years before; conveniently at the same time the priest from “The Exorcist” fell down the stairs to his death at the end of the exorcism scene. Brad Dourif has two monologues in this movie, one that is very lengthy, and he chews up the scenery with each and every line. The one thing I kept wondering as I was watching those scenes was why he was crying during his monologues. Were those the Gemini Killer’s tears or the tears of the man he is possessing? There’s even a nod to Dourif’s character from another horror franchise when he says, “it’s child’s play” and then the scene switches to a little boy with red hair.
Another strength of this film is the dialogue. The witty banter between Father Dyer and George C. Scott adds some levity to the film. In fact, it isn’t until Father Dyer’s death that the film turns truly dark, as if he was the one good thing keeping the evil at bay. Lt. Kinderman is the secular voice versus Father Dyer’s sacred. In fact, much of The Exorcist 3 is about Lt. Kinderman moving beyond disbelief to faith.
I also noticed something about another movie as I was watching. The Exorcist 3 has a scene near the beginning where a creepy old woman goes into the confessional booth at a Catholic church, and starts talking crazy to the priest and then kills him. There is a movie called Legion (2010) that has a scene early in the film involving an old woman who gets really weird, spider crawls across a ceiling and kills someone. The Exorcist 3 also has a scene with an old woman spider crawling across a ceiling. I wonder if the makers of Legion (2010) were blatantly ripping off The Exorcist 3 (which was originally supposed to be called Legion) or if it was more of a tribute to the earlier film.
Another thing I’m not sure about, during Dourif’s scenes, is does George C. Scott notice that Patient X’s physical appearance has changed, or is that only for the audience?
And Legion (2010) isn’t the only movie to take parts from The Exorcist 3. The Denzel Washington movie Fallen (which sucked, in my opinon) stole the concept of an executed serial killer’s spirit jumping from person to person to continue his killing from TX3 as well.
I may be alone in this, but I thought George C. Scott’s performance hurt this film a little. He overacted many of his scenes and practically screamed his lines at times.
The murder scenes and the dream sequences have that same artistic beauty as the murder scenes in the unfortunately cancelled TV series Hannibal. Again, the writing, cinematography, and score work so well together in creating the best kind of atmosphere for a horror film.
The movie has some moments that are a bit too quiet and slow, which is accentuated by the lack of a score in those scenes, but in all actuality, the action is spread out evenly throughout the film to keep one’s interest. I think my falling asleep the first two times I watched it had more to do with me having the flu than the movie boring me. On my third view of the film, I felt much more invested in the characters. And again, I can’t say enough how much Brad Dourif brings to the table. The ending is climactic and even a little heartbreaking as we see how Lt. Kinderman has to put an end to it once and for all.
In other words, I would give this film 3.5 cans of peas soup out of 4.
RACHAEL HAUSCHILD: For the longest time I only saw The Exorcist and its follow up, The Exorcist II: The Heretic. The first one is a classic and I loved it instantly, however; when I saw the second one, it left a sour taste in my mouth. I forever put off The Exorcist III because I thought that it was going to be as bad as the second one and I was nervous of that. Thankfully over the years as my love of horror progressed, I finally gave it a shot.
It was only recently that I decided to watch it. I am SO happy I did. My first watch was with one of my best friends, Adri, at her apartment in Texas. We were both floored at how great it was and we immediately went to go buy a copy the next day. If I remember correctly, it was the last movie we saw in 2016, right before midnight struck. It was the best treat to close out 2016.
As for the film itself, it is wild. George C. Scott plays a role of a lifetime, which may be one of my favorite roles he was ever in. Not to mention, Brad Douriff is in this and he never fails to put on a great performance. The whole film sticks by its religious elements, just like the others, and leaves you questioning a lot about faith. It is equipped with mentions of other films in cinematic history, as well as jump scares that actually scare me. I’m kind of hard to scare these days, but there is one scene that gets me every single time. If you’ve seen the movie, you know of that scene. It’s something that should not be spoken about so that first time viewers can get their blood running when they see it.
The Exorcist III comes highly recommended, especially newer restored editions where the vibrant colors pop and add to the story. It is a refreshing film to see after watching the second film in this franchise. William Peter Blatty did one hell of a job with this and I implore everyone to watch it.
BLAINE MCLAREN: William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist 3 is a movie that I have seen (at least) 25 times and it stills scares the hell outta me. As much as I love the first film, there is something special about this unlikely casted sequel. It doesn’t continue the documentary-style realism of its predecessor, but instead crafts a surreal horror film that is (ultimately) a wonderful mess.
I bring up the film being a mess because there are multiple scenes that feel disjointed and rushed, but these inconsistencies don’t really show up until you’ve seen it a few times. Upon first watch I didn’t notice anything off… I was too busy trying to not jump out of my skin.
What I love most about this film is the spectacular performance from George C. Scott. He embodies this role and gives 100% in every single scene. His interactions with the priest are Oscar worthy and could be the greatest “bromance” in horror movie history. I wish there was more to complain about, but I love this movie and I was excited to watch this film again and I will probably come up with another reason to watch it again… very soon.
LUKE TIPTON: Scream Factory released the director’s cut of The Exorcist III last year with its Blu-ray reissue. I haven’t seen that version, and someday I might track it down. I wasn’t really a fan of the theatrical cut I saw, though.
There are a couple reasons for this. Mainly because of the war between Blatty and the studio heads at Morgan Creek. The suits wanted one thing, and the director wanted another. This is painfully apparent on screen. The result is a schizophrenic movie in conflict with itself; it half-wants to be a call-back to the 1973 William Friedkin classic, and half-wants to go in a different direction altogether. The exorcism in the climax was apparently insisted on by the studio, despite Blatty’s protests and makes no narrative sense whatsoever. The interview scenes between Scott’s police detective Kinderman and Patient X in a padded cell are well done, all atmospheric dark blues and Silence of the Lambs-esque verbal sparring, but nothing else in this film looks this good. These scenes feel like they belong in a different film altogether. There’s a dream sequence, where Kinderman wanders through what appears to be a giant train station to heaven, conversing with murder victims and angels. There’s even a angel Tommy Dorsey band on hand to provide music. It’s weird, but in a tonally jarring kind of way.
But, it’s not without its moments. There are some well-done jump scares; George C. Scott is at his bug-eyed, scenery chewing George C. Scottiest, and Brad Dourif is pretty great as the Gemini Killer, because, well, he’s Brad Dourif, and he’s pretty much great in everything he’s in.
JUSTIN HARLAN: Luke is almost as wrong as he’s ever been when it comes to this one. Though, I’m sure he’s been a bit more wrong a few times before. This is a legit classic and one of the better horrow sequels ever made. The story is fascinating, even if not always making total sense. The acting is amazing, with big performances from big performers. It’s just an awful lot of fun and has some interesting depth in theme, as well.
Like it or hate it, I will say this to Luke and others wishing to see the so-called “Legion” cut… don’t! It’s an inferior version of this film and fans of the book have vouched for that. It’s great that Scream Factory put it out, but if you grab that great release, you should stick to the theatrical version, also included in the set. It’s not even close.
And with that, I wrap up by letting everyone now that I much prefer this film to the first AND I will apologize to no one for it. Viva la Gemini Killer, this shit is great!