Ignoring the second movie, The Exorcist III picks up roughly 15 years after the original left off, with Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) investigating a series of murders that appear to be the work of the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif), who’s supposed to be dead. Meanwhile, Kinderman encounters Patient X (Jason Miller), a mental patient who bears a striking resemblance to Father Karras—who’s also supposed to be dead. Unfortunately Kinderman’s effort to stop the killings earns him an “invitation to the dance,” and possessed people begin coming after him and his family. Along with the priest Father Morning (Nicol Williamson), they try to perform yet another exorcism.
I have mixed feelings about this movie. It has a major nostalgia quotient for me; I first watched it as a teenager with one of my favorite horror movie buddies, my sister Leslie. We’re still amused by oddball dialogue like Kinderman’s statement, “I can’t go home until the carp is asleep.” It’s written and directed by William Peter Blatty (who wrote the novel the first movie is based on, and the novel this film is adapted from), so my criterion of someone associated with the original film is met. Characters from The Exorcist appear (though thankfully not Regan—I think she’s been through enough, which is why I refuse to watch the second film in the series), and while most are replaced by different actors, I adore George C. Scott, and the return of Jason Miller is enough for me. The movie also follows the logic of the original, while giving it an interesting twist.
Wisely, the filmmakers attempt new scares rather than copy ones from the first film. It is a bit unnerving at times, beginning with the disturbing concept that the killer uses a drug to paralyze his victims before horribly torturing them. There’s also an old lady who’s a bit eerie even before she becomes possessed and crawls around on the ceiling. Then there’s the scene when a possessed patient suddenly appears on-screen, arms outstretched mummy-like, to grab the next victim, accompanied by blaring trumpets.
Which is not to say there aren’t moments that annoy me. I’m not satisfied with the reasoning behind Karras’s reappearance. I also don’t appreciate a dream sequence of Kinderman’s featuring Samuel L. Jackson as well as Fabio and Patrick Ewing as angels, mostly because Kinderman sees a victim of the Gemini Killer and says “I’m so sorry you were murdered, Thomas.” Thanks, that means a lot? Also, while I normally enjoy Brad Dourif, I can’t stand him here. For some reason his eyes are always leaking and his dialogue is godawful: “Gracious me. Was I raving?”
If you’re in the mood for creepy rather than overly gory or gross, give it a look.