The Exorcist III (1990)

Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,

Contains spoilers!

Seriously, what else was it gonna be  Not only the top horror, for me, of the nineties, but it’s in my top five horrors ever ever!!! I just love everything about this dark and moody masterpiece. No other horror, in recent memory, has got under my skin and into my head quite like this film has. And it is bloody scary too, I mean, if you really really let it draw you in, this is quite possibly one of the most terrifying films ever made! This is William Peter Blatty, author of the original Exorcist, and also Legion (which this film is based on), sticking two great big fingers up at John Boorman for fuckin up his masterpiece with the embarrassing Exorcist 2: The Heretic. This is Peter Blatty saying, THIS is how’s it’s done, let forget The Heretic ever existed (and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing it hadn’t) and this will be the “proper” sequel to not only one of the greatest horrors of all time, but also one of the greatest films of all time.

William Peter Blatty, believe it or not, has only ever made two films. This, and the confusing but intriguing The Ninth Configuration. The man has a talent, a serious talent, for horror and i would honestly pay money for him to make another horror, i really would. Blatty should open up a school for new horror director’s in the making, with a great big plaque on the school sign stating “if you follow my lead, I will teach you how to REALLY scare the audience out of their wits!”. Because that is exactly what he achieves here. There’s no gimmicks, no horror cliché’s, there is none of these sex mad teenagers running around and being killed off, there’s hardly any gore, and there is no nudity. What’s that? DJ liking a horror with NO nudity??? Never!!!! If a horror is THIS good, it doesn’t NEED nudity, i find all that helps to enhance the crappy horrors, keeps you interested. The good one’s don’t need it, and in fact, adding the expected elements to your usual school of horror would have ruined this film beyond belief. Blatty has made a serious horror, for serious people, there’s no fuckin jokes here, no comical moments, no stupid idiots running around doing everything you yourself wouldn’t do. There are characters here that actually have brains. THIS is like that £300 bottle of Glenfiddich, it’s the best of the best, it’s a horror for true horror fans, it takes no prisoners and it will honestly scare you half to death!

A serial killer is on the loose and Detective Kinderman, same character from the original Exorcist, is on the case. Kinderman is played by George C Scott is a mesmerising performance, he commands the screen, he controls every scene, and his performance is strong, powerful, and heartfelt. This is as much Scott’s film, as it is Blatty’s. His investigations lead him to suspect there is possibly something religious going on. His friend Father Dyer is now in hospital, and after his murder, Kinderman is assigned to that hospital where he meets all kinds of strange characters. A simple plot, or so it seems, that just gets better and better, and darker and more evil and demonic with every viewing. This is a deep film, a really really deep film that is masterfully crafted to be based on its story, rather than its shocks. It does have shocks, and because you are so drawn into the story, when the shocks do come they are terrifying, truly terrifying.

The film starts, and sets the tone. If you are not incredibly on edge, and quite possibly hiding under your pillow within the first five minutes, then you are NOT watching this film. “I have dreams, of a rose, and falling down a long flight of steps” says the voice of Damien Karras, the priest who you will all know was the poor guy who exorcised Regan in the original and killed himself after getting the demon to “COME INTO ME!!!!”. So, his words echo as a unseen person is walking the night streets, he sees a black boy holding a rose, and then falls down the steps. We also have the Church moment, haunting church like music plays, and when i say this music is haunting, i am not joking, it is haunting beyond belief, and you WILL be petrified. Anyway, something is building up, lurking in the darkness, and suddenly you start to hear these demonic growls, they are used to fantastic effect throughout the entire film, but this is the first time you hear them, and it is like the Devil is talking. Anyway, it builds, perfectly and suddenly the church doors are thrust open by an evil force, paper is flying everywhere, all the statues you have just been looking at suddenly look horrific. The scariest bit, is when a statue of Christ opens his eyes! And I swear, when we go back to that statues face, it has slightly moved! All this within a few minutes, and it is serious scare your pants off stuff!!

Now, i could easily sit here and write about the entire film in so much depth, every scene, but i mustn’t. When we do meet Kinderman, he’s in a foul mood, and we grow fond of him instantly. He’s a likeable character, and an excellent detective, and a damn fine choice of actor to lead us through this demonic film. He’s a grounded, level headed guy, so when he comes to realise what he’s truly up against, it makes it all the more unsettling. One of the films finest moments between two people comes when Kinderman and Dyer go to the movies. We have the “carp” conversation which is both amusing, and goes to prove their close friendship. But it’s the discussion in the cafe that gets me every time. A  deep deep discussion about life and then the killer. “The whole world is a homicide victim Father” “For God to invent something like death, it’s not popular Father, its not a winner” “You wouldn’t wanna live forever” “Yes i would” “No you wouldn’t, you’d get bored” “I have hobbies”. Seriously, can Blatty write a script or what? It’s one of those scenes you could sit and watch all day. And then as we move onto how the black-boy was killed, things turn dark, and Father Dyers reaction to what happened is devastating.

When we do see kills, it is nasty, not bloody, but just done in such a way as to up the ante on the terror levels way way above what is normally expected in a horror “it’s a problem I’m working on Father, all this bleeding” says a truly nightmarish, old woman’s voice, as the poor priest in the confession box becomes scared, and screams, and then the screams blend into the sound of a woman’s screams, who has just found the poor guy, and blood pours from the bottom of the door, and yet another genius use of sound effects brings us to an almighty storm and the police arriving at the church. Blatty’s timing is just brilliant, I can’t think of many horrors that manage to get their timing so perfect. I’ll say it again, Blatty has incredible talent, incredible talent.

Finally at the hospital, and somehow Blatty has brought together some of the strangest old people ever put in a film. There’s the flasher, the woman who crawls on the ceiling, and good ol’ Mrs Clelia and her radio! So far, EVERY SINGLE person in this film has given an Oscar worthy performance, everyone is so convincing in their parts, and oddly enough the old people are no different. Mrs Clelia gives an exceptional performance, and is really really convincing. She has been blamed for Father Dyers calculated murder. The scene where Kinderman arrives to look at the body of his now dead friend is very touching. This is a strong man, reduced to tears, it’s such a powerful scene to watch as he lifts the white cover to see what’s left of his friend. Again, the timing is superb, nothing is rushed. His detectives answer his questions slowly, and convincingly as they try to explain what has happened.

After looking around the disturbed ward, we finally get introduced to a mad man sat in Cell eleven. Enter Brad Dourif, as the Gemini Killer. Kinderman has been suspicious as the recent murders all have the trademarks of a killer who has been dead for fifteen years. The trademarks were only known to the police, as the press were fed a different story to stop fakes. Kinderman is nervous. When he explains the history of the Gemini Killer, again, like with the whole film, we hang on every word, it is interesting to listen to. One of the main Dr’s, Dr Temple, is scared, he has written something down, and calls Kinderman to his office. Explaining how the man in Cell eleven came to be there, and telling Kinderman that the man insists he’s the Gemini Killer, Kinderman goes to see him.

After such a moody, fantastic, truly inspired hour, things really hot up as we see not one, but two different people in Cell eleven. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it. It’s Father Karras, played by the same man who played him in the original, and the excellent Brad Dourif as the Gemini Killer. The scenes between Kinderamn and this Man are utterly inspired, some of the best stuff you will EVER see in a horror as the Killer gloats about his killings and his story, while all Kinderman can do is sit, listen, and look utterly confused as he is talking to Father Karras, his best friend who killed himself 15 years ago. Again, Blatty directs with a real style all his own, focusing not only on the two people, but dripping water, and the light coming in from the window, which all adds to the eeriness and otherworldliness of what is happening. To prove himself, the Gemini Killer, at one point, “growls” at Kinderman, i swear, even writing this is giving me the shivers, it is scary, really really scary. Kinderman doesn’t say much in their conversations, but Dourif does an incredible job telling his story, and it is very very unsettling as he explains about his Master who wants him to continue killing. I don’t really wanna spoil this for anyone, but what has been done to get this killer back murdering again will really get your brain working. It will deeply unsettle, and quite possibly scar you for life. If you really really think about what has happened here, and really believe it, it is scary, but also a monumentally genius move by Blatty. It is seriously, and quite possibly the greatest idea in the history of ideas in horror films. Its is massively original, and based on how it has come about, and how long it has taken, it is actually, dare i say it, BELIEVABLE.

There is so much expertise in this film, so much. Medical expertise, you could actually learn something from this, and also religious and spiritual expertise. You feel in good hands that Blatty knows exactly what the hell he is talking about. There is too much information for any of these ideas to be passed off as cheap shocks. Everything is cunningly, cruelly, and expertly put together for the best possible effect. There are moments, too many of them, of “did i see that?” bits. A scene where Kinderman goes to visit a Priest, the lights flicker, a strange noise comes from outside the office. Kinderamn goes to investigate, and Blatty does what he’s been doing the whole film, panning the area, showing you what’s around with sudden edits of the surroundings. One of them looks like an evil clown holding a knife, and i must admit, I’m too scared to pause on it to see if its real. The tension, and build up in this simple scene is again, genius and i guarantee you will jump out of your skin when it climaxes!

Oh, and let’s not forget THAT scare. Possibly the greatest scare in the history of cinema??? Its definitely up there with the best of the best. You all know what I’m talking about. It’s the timing, again, that truly works this scene. Timing is everything in horror, and Blatty teases and teases, he injects one scare making you think that that is it, and then, out of the blue and totally unexpected, he delivers a scene so shocking, so nerve shredding, so fuckin brilliant, even after many many viewings, it STILL works, and it actually gets me nervous as anything as it builds to what happens. It’s a quick scare, it’s not overdone, it quick, and very effective, helped by horrific sound effects and a truly genius edit to the next scene. Blatty, seriously, i can’t imagine ANYONE not watching this scene and being totally in your debt. Incredible work.

The Gemini Killer decides to liven things up “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve been dull. I shall liven things up for you Lieutenant”. And he does! After explaining his creation, the Gemini Killer turns nasty on Kinderman, explaining “the torment of your friend Father Karras as he watches while i RIP AND CUT AND MUTILATE THE INNOCENT!!! HE IS INSIDE WITH US!!! HE WILL NEVER GET AWAY!!!” Even after the amount of shocks we have been put through, Blatty keeps on delivering them. Scare after scare after scare. We come to an ending that was changed and beefed up by Warner’s. Now, i haven’t finished reading the book yet, so i am not sure how it differs, but i do know it doesn’t follow the book. It’s possibly the movies weakest point as it goes all, dare I say it, mainstream horror, delivering the blood and guts. But, to be fair, it aint a bad ending, and Kindermans “I BELIEVE!!!!” speech is superb! I would like to see the original ending, I really would, bit its never gonna happen, so we have to accept what we have, and it doesn’t spoil the film too much, it’s quite brief, and thanks to what has come before, its forgivable.

So, the Exorcist 3, the greatest horror of the nineties, the greatest horror of the noughites, possibly the greatest of the eighties. It is an incredible achievement, a film so dark, so deep, so intense, so unbelievably scary i could really go on and on about it, but i must stop now, my fingers are starting to hurt. I’m sure everyone here has seen it, whether you’ll agree with me i don’t know, but you cannot deny the fact that this is one hell of a film, with one hell of a leading man and with possibly the greatest scare ever put to film!!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

About Matt Wavish 9999 Articles
A keen enthusiast and collector of all horror and extreme films. I can be picky as i like quality in my horror. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a classic, but as long as it has something to impress me then i'm a fan. I watch films by the rule that if it doesn't bring out some kind of emotive response then it aint worth watching.

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