FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 18, 2007

Day 17- "I am no one."

It's remarkable that 15+ years after the original- and 13 years after the horrendous sequel- Exorcist III burst onto screens and turned out to be a serious, well-made frightening film. Though the film is far from perfect (and it certainly has its detractors), writer/director William Peter Blatty crafted a film (based on his novel Legion) that stands well enough on its own but also answers the nagging question left behind by The Exorcist: what's the point of possessing someone if all they're gonna do is sit around in bed and get gross?

George C Scott stars as Lt Bill Kinderman, the kindly fella who investigated all the weird happenings at the McNeil house fifteen years ago. The Gemini Killer, a vicious serial killer executed...yes...fifteen years ago (omigod what a coinkydink), seems to be back and...err, viciouser than ever. There's been a rash of church-related killings- a young boy in the outreach program is found decapitated and crucified, a priest is murdered in a confessional- and it seems the common element in all of the deaths is Father Karras (Jason Miller), the priest who assisted in Regan's exorcism and who died at the bottom of that long flight of steps in Georgetown.

As Kinderman puts the pieces together, the killings begin to hit closer and closer to home: Kinderman's long-time friend Father Dyer (Ed Flanders), who also knew the McNeils, encounters the killer during a hospital stay, and eventually even Kinderman's family is in danger. Is the Gemini Killer really still alive? Who is Patient X, the man who bears a striking resemblance to the long-dead Father Karras?

Exorcist III is a slow (but never boring), cerebral film that unfolds like a murder mystery, but there are ample scares to satisfy horror fans: there are creepy voices, bleeding statues, old women who crawl around on the ceiling (seriously disturbing, y'all), and of course, the infamous nurse scene: a nearly wordless 5-minute sequence that's a brilliant exercise in tension. The audience knows that something is gonna happen, but what and when? It's the one scene people remember most after seeing this film, and it's the one that had everyone screaming and jumping when I saw it in the theatre.

There's not nearly as much 'razzle dazzle' here as there is in the original Exorcist- it's much more subtle than that. That's not to say nothing happens in the film- but when it does, Blatty tends to keep things dark and mysterious. The performances keep you riveted, particularly those of George C Scott (c'mon, man, it's George C Scott!) and Brad Dourif (James Venamun). It's a pleasure to watch Kinderman and Dyer interact- two friends who are unsentimental but deeply attached to one another. There's also a bevy of familiar faces in smaller roles: Zohra Lampert (Let's Scare Jessica to Death), Viveca Lindfors (Creepshow), Samuel L Jackson, and in the role of "Was that...what the eff is he doing in an Exorcist film?", Patrick Ewing.

Folks seem to be pretty divided on Exorcist III- either it's a great, scary sequel or it's a big fat mess. Can't we call it both? Then we're all right, and everyone is pretty. Especially me!


Joseph Emmerth said...

Awesome! A long overdue review for a suprisingly good film.

Anonymous said...

the scene with the nun in the hospital with the giant clippers! i rewound it a thousand times. it's so quick and it's one of the best scares ever! it's like.. nothing...boring...nothing...boring then... WHAM! and the camera never moves the entire time! I wish William Peter Blatty directed more. I'm a fan of THE NINTH CONFIGURATION as well!

Anonymous said...

I laughed my goony-googoo off at 92.4% of this flick at the theater when it came out! Aside from the clipper moment mentioned above. Right after my friend and I BOTH tried the 'Argh! Gotcha!' on each other then both fell ass first on the floor trying to jump out of our chairs when the Barber of Pazuzu went running by! One of the few flix to actually deliver such a blow to my 'ego', a distant cousin of the dream in a dream segment in American were in London and something I hope doesn't now get done to death ala M. Night ShakeNbake.


Chadzilla said...

Yeah, I really like this film also. Reportedly it was horrendously tampered with by the studio that financed it. I wish Blatty had been able to do more than a handful of novels and two movies.

Anonymous said...

In my fantasy world this is actually part 2 and the other Exorcist movies do not exist, Halloween stopped after 2 (well...maybe after 4) and Friday the 13th after part 4. Oh I love my fantasy world...oh yeah, and NO remakes of Black Christmas, The Fog, ect.

Anonymous said...

Apropos of nothing - but Stacie...seriously...your rawkin' blog makes my day, everyday. Thanks! By the way, I finally got around to watching the outtakes from The Descent a few days ago. When the springy eyeballs showed up, I had to throw a chuckle your way, never having made the connection. :-)

Bryan Alexander said...

Definitely an underappreciated horror film. So many tasty bits, from the ones you mentioned to the dialogues in the cell ("Titus Andronicus, my favorite"). A very sad, dark movie.

Anonymous said...

Dude, Samuel L. Jackson? Now I HAVE to check this out.

Stacie Ponder said...

"The Barber of Pazuzu"- Broadway's next big musical hit, with songs by Elton John and a rotating cast of extremely minor celebrities! Leeza Gibbons as Regan, 5 weeks only!

Scott- thanks very much! The googly eyes rock.

Joanna- it's really just a cameo, as it's before Pulp Fiction when he really took off. He's not kicking Satan's ass or anything...though I'm surprised that hasn't happened yet.

Will said...

I read the book over 20 years ago & enjoyed the movie as well. Although the ending was like...who's this guy now & where did he come from?. You should get the book, also Twinkle Twinkle Killer kane by Blatty as well. Both are very thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

Even though I'm horribly late to the party, I would like to officially add that, yes, I also feel this is one of the best (or at least most-often overlooked) cerebral horror films ever.

Good call, my friend. Now... bring on the hedge-clippers!

deadlydolls said...

So I know it's been 3 years since you wrote this review, but can we still high five? Just rewatched this about a month ago and holy crap, it is so great. Yes, the story is a mess (waves fist at studio) and the ending exorcism has no purpose, but the dialogue, performances, and general unease is SO DAMN GREAT. Hugely underrated film, plus it's got Fabio!

Padded Cell said...

The messy story wasn't the studio's fault. All they did was add the exorcism and bring back the actor who'd played Karras in the first movie. The story stayed pretty close to Blatty's book.

Bringing the original actor back makes sense because you'd want the site of Karras to have an impact.

That's not going to happen if there's an unfamiliar actor there.

The ending of the movie isn't that great, but it would have been worse without any changes. Just look at the book. It was good, but the ending was FLAT.