Film Review: The Exorcist III (1990)

Also known as: Exorcist III: Legion, The Exorcist: 1990 (working titles), Legion (alternative title), William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III (complete title)
Release Date: August 17th, 1990
Directed by: William Peter Blatty
Written by: William Peter Blatty
Based on: Legion by William Peter Blatty
Music by: Barry De Vorzon
Cast: George C. Scott, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson, Brad Dourif, Harry Carey Jr., Tyra Ferrell, Samuel L. Jackson, C. Everett Koop, Larry King, Patrick Ewing, Fabio, Colleen Dewhurst (voice)

Morgan Creek Entertainment, 110 Minutes, 105 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“You again. You’ve interrupted me. Well… come in, Father Morning. Enter, knight. This time you’re going to lose.” – Patient X

I used to think that my take on The Exorcist III was a weird one, as I always found it to be scarier and creepier than the original. In fact, the original film, even as a kid, didn’t really scare me like it apparently scared the absolute shit out of everyone else.

For whatever reason, this one just scared the fucking bejesus out of me.

In recent years, however, I’ve come to discover that many people feel the same way I do about it, as it sort of hit them in their psyche in a similar way. Maybe that’s a generational thing and this one just seems to resonate more with Generation-X where the first film resonated much more with the Baby Boomers.

Now I do think that the 1973 original is a better motion picture, overall, but that’s mainly due to the narrative flaws of this picture, which probably stemmed from the issues between the director and the studio.

To start, the original Exorcist author William Peter Blatty was hired to direct this third film. He was tasked with adapting his novel Legion. The studio wanted him to rework it into their Exorcist film canon, which means that one should just ignore the insane second movie.

Anyway, the story was reworked and Blatty wanted to just make a Legion movie that stood on its own but the two parties worked out a happy compromise, which was this picture. Granted, it probably wasn’t too happy in the end, as it’s not really what either party wanted and it failed to produce the financial results they were hoping for. However, it’s definitely made back its money over the years, as it became sort of a cult favorite once it was on video.

I think that all the production shenanigans are why the narrative is so shaky and a bit all over the place. Regardless of that, however, it isn’t that difficult to follow and the acting by George C. Scott and Brad Dourif is incredible. In fact, this is probably the greatest performance of Dourif’s storied career despite it not being critically recognized as much as his performances in Mississippi Burning and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

While the film’s pace may be a bit slow, the pacing works well where it counts. I have to give immense props to Blatty for creating one of the greatest jump scare scenes in motion picture history because even though I’ve seen it a half dozen times and know it’s coming, it is still damn effective and gives me chills for days after watching the film.

Also, all the other creepy shit still works and this is a film that has aged really well, as it had to rely on practical effects, as opposed to CGI bullshit that takes you out of the picture. The scene with the possessed nurse on the ceiling just couldn’t work in the same way with modern film technology.

The Exorcist III is not a masterpiece but it is a film that maybe could have been if the director was able to just make the film he intended. While flawed, the high points of the film certainly make up for the low ones and the creepiness of it will linger with you for awhile after you’ve seen it.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the first Exorcist movie, as well as The Changeling.

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