Review: The Exorcist III (1990)
Director: William Peter Blatty
Writer: William Peter Blatty
Stars: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders
currently available on Amazon Proime (as of 10/30/19)
William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III is supernaturally exhilarating, spellbinding its viewers in fascinated horror as it entrances them with incomparable dialog and some of the most intense performances ever captured on film. The original novel The Exorcist, which was also written by Blatty, was transformed into a bona fide horror masterpiece by the sure hand of master director William Friedkin (The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A., Bug). When Blatty took over the director’s chair to adapt its first true sequel (I am discountingThe Exorcist 2 which was a shameless cash grab disowned by Blatty), he touched the film with a passionate knowledge of self, missing from the coldly scientific perspective of Friedkin’s masterpiece. This means that pain and evil each drip from the screen during The Exorcist III, making it no less horrifying and nearly as fascinating as 1972’s The Exorcist..
Whereas Friedkin filmed his experiment in horror like a police procedural, The Exorcist III(which is actually a police procedural) is filmed with an emotional lens, making its shadows deeper and its reality more pliable. Characters transform their faces and voices, figures crawl quickly on the ceiling, and a crucified adolescent innocent floats up from a hole in the floor. While all the horrific descriptions and depictions of violence might risk guiding viewers to look away, the film’s performances are absolutely riveting, especially the starring turn by George C. Scott.
The pain and the terror in Scott’s face is deeply meaningful, and the rage in his arms is captivating. It is almost as if, in times of great emotional strife, Scott’s character Lt. William Kinderman loses control of his muscles as they spasm in pain. But it is not only Scott’s performance that elevates the film, but also Ed Flanders’ portrayal of horror-hardened Priest Father Dyer that grounds the emotion of the film in wise empathy. But it is Brad Dourif’s spellbinding showing as the malevolent Gemini Killer that makes the film intoxicating.
Unlike his magnificent showing in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as the suicidally bashful Billy Bibbit, Dourif’s turn in The Exorcist III shows us the self-assured face of evil. Imprisoned, tormented, and unstoppable. This film shows the monstrous nature of evil, forbidding its audience from looking away even for a second. Though to my perspective this is not the staggering achievement the original The Exorcist was, this film is more emotionally tangible than its predecessor, and definitely as worthy of a watch this Halloween.