The Quarantine Stream: 'The Exorcist III' May Be an Unnecessary Sequel, But It's Still Pretty Darn Great10/21/2020
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: The Exorcist III
Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime Video and Shudder
The Pitch: Original Exorcist author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty writes and directs a direct follow-up to the horror classic (one that conveniently and wisely ignores Exorcist II: The Heretic). Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, the gruff detective from the first movie, is investigating a series of serial killings that end up tying directly into the events of The Exorcist.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: The Exorcist III isn’t as good as the original film – but it’s pretty damn close. Disturbing, weird, and featuring some great performances, this sequel takes the concepts introduced in The Exorcist and runs wild with them, crafting something unique in the process.
Years of bad, unnecessary sequels may have turned some people off of ever checking out The Exorcist III. And, hell, watching Exorcist II, or the two different prequel films (Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist), certainly may make you warry of ever checking this out. But I assure you: Exorcist III is a great horror movie.
George C. Scott is his usual gruff self, playing homicide cop Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, a part played by Lee J. Cobb in The Exorcist. It’s been fifteen years since the event of the first Exorcist, and those events continue to haunt Kinderman even though he wasn’t directly involved. Now, all these years later, a series of brutal serial killings leads Kinderman to a hospital where he discovers a mysterious patient locked away in a psychiatric ward.
To Kinderman’s horror, the patient looks exactly like Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), the Exorcist priest. Karras is supposed to be dead, having lept out a window and tumbled down a set of steep stairs. And there’s an explanation for his inexplicable return: his body has been possessed by the Gemini Killer, a serial killer who was executed for his crimes. The Gemini is played by Brad Dourif, aka the voice of Chucky, and Exorcist III has a neat trick up its sleeve where whenever “Karras” gets angry he suddenly changes into Dourif, with Dourif giving a great, screamy performance (note: there’s a director’s cut of the film that removes Miller entirely and lets Dourif play both Karas and the Gemini Killer, but I think the theatrical version with both actors is superior).
Exorcist III isn’t as nuanced as the original movie. It’s not as visually stunning – Blatty is a pretty good director, but he’s no William Friedkin. And it’s also more brutal, dipping into slasher movie territory at times. All of this may turn off some fans of the original, but there’s so much to enjoy here. The horror on display is often legitimately creepy, and sometimes downright scary – the best jump-scare in horror history is arguably in this movie. And Scott is giving it his all, portraying Kinderman as a level-headed guy at the end of his rope thanks to all the supernatural shit going on around him.
If you’re tired of rewatching The Exorcist every year and want something in the same ballpark, but different, you can’t go wrong with Exorcist III.
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