Directed by William Peter Blatty himself and based on his novel Legion (1983), The Exorcist III (1990) is laughably underrated. The film stars George C. Scott (The Changeling ’80, Firestarter ’84) as Lieutenant Kinderman, Ed Flanders (Salem’s Lot ’79) as Father Dyer and Brad Dourif (voice of Chucky, Trauma ’93) as The Gemini Killer; Jason Miller also reprises his role from The Exorcist (1973) as Patient X/Father Damien Karras.
Fifteen years after the death of their friend Father Damien Karras, Lieutenant Kinderman and Father Dyer meet to cheer each other up by going to see ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Kinderman is investigating the murder of a boy who was crucified while still conscious and then decapitated, his own head being replaced with the head of a statue of Christ. More murders occur, each, like the boy’s, with the same M.O. as The Gemini Killer, a serial killer who also died fifteen years previously.
While investigating the murders, Kinderman learns from a doctor, Dr. Temple played brilliantly by Scott Wilson, that a man in the isolation tank at the hospital who was brought in fifteen years previously with total amnesia and whose condition subsequently deteriorated into catatonia is now claiming to be The Gemini Killer. When Kinderman goes to see this man in ‘Cell 11’, well, that’s all I’m saying about the plot.
So, why is this laughably underrated? Well, for a start, the script (the screenplay was written by Blatty himself, based on his own novel) is extraordinary. Much of the novel springs to life with the sheer quality of the acting by all involved; Dourif gives a performance you do not want to miss as The Gemini Killer; there’s even a very funny reference to the Child’s Play films if you can catch it. There are fine performances too by actors/actresses I haven’t mentioned so really not a scene goes by without this film being totally engrossing.
The story is as much a detective film as it is a horror, as indeed is the novel, and both genres are seamlessly interwoven, very impressive directing by Blatty. Much of the horror is left to the imagination so we’re not talking a gory film but there’s plenty to enjoy from the macabre to the downright weird; one particular dream sequence stays in the mind long after the credits roll.
Now, it is said that interfering producers had a detrimental effect on the completed film, particularly the insertion of a character called Father Morning (played by Nicol Williamson) and the ending, and that Blatty did try unsuccessfully to assemble a ‘director’s cut’ but I would have to say that none of this affected my personal enjoyment of the film, although I haven’t finished the book yet; as of this time I would say that I enjoyed the film throughout and I loved the ending.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who hasn’t seen it, personally I could watch it over and over again, but I must also highly recommend the novel Legion on which it’s based; I’m well into that at the moment.
“It’s a wonderfull life.”