Twelve years after the release of Exorcist II: The Heretic was released, William Peter Blatty (the writer of the original novel The Exorcist) made his directorial debut with The Exorcist III. While he had originally planned to release it under a different title, the studio naturally had it's way and dubbed it the third entry in the fated Exorcist trilogy.
If you've read my thoughts on the second chapter, The Heretic, then please do not let that be any indication as to the validity of this film. This one is an exception, and I'm rather excited to share my thoughts about it.
Title: The Exorcist III
Director(s): William Peter Blatty
Writer(s): William Peter Blatty
Producer(s): Carter DeHaven, James G. Robinson
Starring: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Scott Wilson
It has been 15 years since the death of Father Karras, and Lieutenant William F. Kinderman still mourns the anniversary, every year with his friend and fellow colleague of Karras, Father Dyer. The film opens on this day, with the murder of a 12 year old boy named Thomas Kintry. After Kinderman and Dyer partake in a viewing of their favorite film, It's a Wonderful Life, Kinderman reveals vicious details of the death of Kintry to Dyer's shock.
Over the coming days, a priest is found crucified to the interior of a confessional, and after Dyer is hospitalized for unknown reasons, he too meets the same fate in his hospital bed. What troubles Kinderman the most is the similarity of the MO to that of The Gemini Killer, who was executed around the same time as Karras' untimely death.
As Kinderman delves deeper into the case in search of the murderer, he begins to discover that there may be connections between the exorcism of Regan MacNeil, Father Karras' death and the execution of The Gemini Killer.
I greatly enjoyed this film. After the pile of muck that was The Heretic, this film was a breath of fresh air for the franchise, although I do believe that it never should been released under the Exorcist name. It only served to tarnish it's reputation before it even had a chance to be released in theaters.
William Peter Blatty not only wrote the screenplay for the first film, he also wrote the book that the film was adapted from. In that sense, having him back made a huge difference in the tone, feel and general mood of the film. While the second film held this sense of campiness, the third chapter of the film was much darker and you could feel it. It also felt different, and not in a bad way, it felt like it never should have been an Exorcist film.
Blatty had originally intended on releasing it under the title Legion, named after the book from which it was adapted. It was only on Morgan Creek and Fox's insistence that the film's title include the word "Exorcist". That wasn't the only thing they changed however, even the climactic ending was altered so that the film could be released under the Exorcist umbrella. It's unfortunate to see these kinds of things happen to films. I believe that this film, while solid as it stands (it has been voted as one of the Top 10 Scariest Films of All Time), could have made name for itself and would have been even stronger had it been released under a different name.
There were some amazing scenes in this film. Brad Dourif delivered in a way that was absolutely unreal, bringing to life The Gemini Killer and sending chills down your spine. I think it's an absolute pity that he is remembered as Chucky, before he is remembered in this performance, it was damn near perfect.
Let's get on to the P's and C's.
1. The Mood. This film has a similar feeling of dread that one would feel when watching the original Exorcist film. For a horror film, and for me personally, that is huge. I think that I will always get a slight lump in throat when I watch Pazuzu tear Regan's body apart, it's been ingrained in my mind, and while The Exorcist III is not nearly as much of an emotional onslaught as the first one, it has that edge of the seat quality that I love in a horror film. I think that's all thanks to Blatty.
2. Brad Dourif. Dourif has a scene in which he is being interrogated by Kinderman, and I don't think I've felt chills like that in a long, long time. It was a beautiful scene, and I had forgotten what an amazing actor Dourif is. Recently on r/horror someone posted a YouTube clip of his monologue, and I'll simply say, that clip was the reason I decided to revisit this film and I sat with bated anticipation until the moment he showed up on screen. He was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor in this role.
3. The Cinematography. The cinematography in this one is outstanding. There are several scenes that are built perfectly to manipulate your emotions, lead you down a path and BAM, scare the shit out of you.
1. George C. Scott. Honestly, I did not think his performance was all that bad. I think that when you start getting deeper and deeper into a franchise, you have to be a little more forgiving for the slew of shitty acting that you may come across (i.e. Hellraiser: Inferno), but he was nominated for Razzie for this one. A Razzie. For those of you who do not know a Razzie is an award for being shitty, or the worst, in the field of filmmaking. Ouch. For that reason alone, gotta add it to the con-list.
So... the question comes again, would I recommend it? Yes. Absolutely. If you're a fan of The Exorcist have yourself a peek and enjoy it. Do not go into it expecting another film like The Exorcist, you're not going to get that, but you'll get a great film with an extremely creepy atmosphere and some majorly iconic scenes. Dig it.
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10