Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Exorcist III (1990)

After the bad taste that Exorcist II: The Heretic left in my mouth, I decided to check out the next Exorcist film, appropriately titled The Exorcist III. Surprisingly, The Exorcist III is a decent flick and left me with that minty-fresh taste I was looking for.

Lieutenant Bill Kinderman (George C. Scott) is investigating a serial killer stalking the streets of Georgetown. The killer has a habit of decapitating his victims and leaving behind religious iconography. The lieutenant believes that somehow the Gemini Killer, who was executed for his crimes 15 years ago, is back and responsible for the murders. He discovers a mental patient, Patient X, that looks exactly like his friend Father Karras (who died falling down that long flight of stairs in the first film, with Jason Miller reprising his role) who has been locked in a padded cell for 15 years, but claims he is James Venamun, The Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif), and that he is killing again. As the body count climbs, Lt. Kinderman comes to realize that something much more demonic has taken over Father Karras’ body…

Some might say that any sequel after Exorcist II would be like a breath of fresh air, but I found that even as a stand-alone film The Exorcist III works. Let’s just try and forget that Exorcist II was ever spawned.

Exorcist III starts off like a crime drama or a serial killer movie, but it’s got some nice touches of horror that will keep you on the edge of your seat! The movie unfolds slowly, building momentum with creepy dream sequences featuring religious iconography (Jesus is watching you!), howling winds and some character interactions that really pull you into the story. It also features two of the most startling scenes you’ll witness in a horror film! One involves a prolonged, tension-filled scene involving a nurse late at night in the hospital while the other shows an old woman crawling on the ceiling. Both are genuinely shocking, scary and come out of nowhere!

The film’s dialogue is sharp and witty, especially between Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott) and Father Dyer (Ed Flanders). It is truly a joy to see these two characters, who are old friends, make delightful verbal jabs at each other. The dialogue gets a whole lot darker when Lt. Kinderman visits with Patient X/The Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif), but it’s no less intriguing. The chemistry between George C. Scott and Brad Dourif is fantastic and their scenes together are very eerie. The actors are definitely at the top of their game here, as the script gives them plenty to work with.

The script was written by William Peter Blatty and adapted from his book Legion, the sequel to his popular The Exorcist novel. Blatty also directed this film and should be proud of the damn fine horror film he’s created. It doesn’t rely on blood and gore to gross the audience out, but instead a creeping dread that permeates your very core.

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. On the onset, things are a bit confusing when Patient X reveals himself alternately as Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Gemini Killer James Venamun (Brad Dourif). While the film explains that the Gemini Killer took over the Father’s body as he died, the vacillation between the two is distracting. The ending wasn’t my cup of tea either. After slowly building dread and tension, the finale just seems over the top. The silly inclusion of exorcism priest Father Morning (Nicol Williamson) didn’t help either, as he doesn’t really serve a purpose in the film until the end.

Overall, though, The Exorcist III is an excellent, underrated horror flick that is a proper successor to The Exorcist. Now, if we could just imagine that Exorcist II was never made…

Available from Amazon!

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