#31DaysOfHorror: The Exorcist III (1990)

exorcist-pA police lieutenant uncovers more than he bargained for as his investigation of a series of murders, which have all the hallmarks of the deceased ‘Gemini’ serial killer, lead him to question the patients of a psychiatric ward.

It’s hard to imagine a sequel to The Exorcist being effective or even watchable. Hell, they tried it four years after the original with The Heretic and I’d say that the 3.7/10 it presently has on IMDB pretty much speaks for itself. Yet, here we are almost 20 years later with another shot at a sequel to The Exorcist. Now, this is the only sequel that I’ve heard anything good about, and one that I just never bothered to check it out. Perhaps due to the one time I did try and watch Heretic

With that said, here we are on day 29 of my #31DaysOfHorror and I’ve given nearly two hours of my life to The Exorcist III, and I’ve got to say, I’m pretty glad that I did. While it doesn’t come close to the first film, it also doesn’t appear to be trying to. It tells a very different story, this time more of a murder-mystery that does actively downplay the supernatural elements for the majority of the film. There are hints, and of course it’s a sequel to The Exorcist, so you know that you’re going to get there eventually, but the focus is more on the mystery than the possession this time around.

exorcist

Perhaps the reason that this particular sequel works is the return of William Peter Blatty, this time both as writer and director. It’s also based on another piece of Blatty’s fiction, Legion. While William Friedkin is a significantly better director, it’s clear that Blatty worked hard to produce his vision, and actually manages to get pretty excellent performances out of everyone. The pacing is a bit stilted, but I don’t have a whole lot to complain about if I’m honest. It just takes a bit longer than it needs to in getting to where it ultimately ends up going.

Also returning to the series is George C. Scott as Kinderman, who you may remember from the first film as the delightful police officer. He does a great job returning to this character, though there is a certain intensity that seems to flare up randomly. It’s clear that Kinderman is starting to break near the surface, and this shows in these angry outbursts from time to time. I almost could have done with a bit more time developing him, but there seemed to be a lot to include in this story. You’ve also got the return of Father Kariss, Jason Miller, this time called Patient X. Having both men back in this makes all the difference, I can’t imagine that it would have worked with a different cast playing these characters.

You also have a pretty unsettling performance from Brad Dourif (Child’s Play) as The Gemini Killer. He does a pretty excellent job throughout this movie, though so much time is dedicated to him explaining the possession of Kariss and giving exposition to Kinderman. That said, he is a frightening character and manages to pull off the role much better than I would have expected.

I wouldn’t even begin to compare this movie to the original; The Exorcist is such a significant and ground breaking piece of horror that it’s a fool’s errand to try and recapture that. Even the new TV series, which I think is pretty good, still pales in comparison in just about every way. As a supernatural mystery, The Exorcist III is pretty good, as a sequel to The Exorcist, it really just doesn’t hold up.

All in all, I’d say check this one out, but keep your expectations low and realistic. There are some good performances, and a solidly engaging story, but in the end it’s trying to fill some impossible boots.

MY RATING: ***

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