I have a confession to make: I never really liked The Exorcist. There, I said it. I know I should like The Exorcist, because it has some wonderful effects and it freaks out overly religious people, but it’s just one of those things, I guess. I’ve seen it twice (the third time, with the unnecessary CGI, doesn’t count) and both times I felt a little let down despite appreciating almost all aspects of it. I’ve been meaning to watch it again for a long time now, but just haven’t made the time for it.
The Exorcist III, on the other hand, came on TV when I was home sick from school one day and I unexpectedly enjoyed the hell out of it. In the years since I’ve always wanted to see it again. Cue Scream Factory’s re-release of the movie, which is hands down the best way to see it. I watched it last night long after I should have been in bed and it’s easily one of the finest horror films ever made. The new sound mix alone is better than most of the stuff I reviewed this month.
You likely won’t find a review with fewer spoilers than this one. The trailers give away one of the film’s biggest surprises and I bet all the reviews do, too. If, by some chance, you haven’t seen any of the marketing material, I won’t spoil the great mid-movie reveal about the man in Cell 11, who’s played by Brad Dourif. Dourif’s performance here is really something special. I’ve seen hundreds of actors go for the same kind of batty creepiness, but few have been as believable as him.
You can tell writer William Peter Blatty, who directed the film himself, wanted to protect the secret as well, because the moment it’s revealed is done with so much care. Blatty apparently battled the studio on a lot of unnecessary changes. For one, he didn’t even want the word “Exorcist” in the title because the second one, which he had nothing to do with, was so terrible. This one isn’t a cash-grab by any means. It’s an organic continuation of the original story.
George C. Scott plays William Kinderman, a grizzled police lieutenant whose best friend was Father Karras, the very priest who threw himself out the window at the end of the original film. (Kinderman was also in the original Exorcist film, briefly portrayed by Lee J. Cobb.) He’s investigating the murder of a twelve year old boy who was crucified and decapitated on a pair of rowboat oars. The killing, it turns out, fits the MO of the so-called Gemini Killer who was shot dead by police around the same time little Regan was exorcised. What does this have to do with anything? Well, it’s a stretch, but the film is so well made it’s not hard to believe within the context of the story.
I love horror-comedies, but a movie that’s legitimately creepy is such a rare thing. If you ever wanted to know why I tend to hate the horror movies of the 2000s, it’s because they were made with the exact opposite sentiments of movies like this. If you liked Jacob’s Ladder and Angel Heart, you’re probably going to like this one, too.