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REVIEW: The Exorcist III

The Exorcist III ****

Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott) and his close friend Father Dyer (Ed Flanders) meet up every year on the anniversary of the death of their friend Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller), who died in Georgetown 15 years prior.

Kinderman confides in Father Dyer that his latest case, a series of gruesome murders, resembles the same pattern of murders by the Gemini Killer, a man convicted and executed in the electric chair 15 years earlier. The murders are complex and grisly, each one more elaborate than its predecessor. They involve crucifixion, bodies drained of blood, beheading and religious desecration. Kinderman is frustrated and confused; is the Gemini killer back, did he have an accomplice, is there a copycat killer or did they convict the wrong man?

As Kinderman’s frustrations grow, Father Dyer is admitted to hospital where he becomes the Gemini killer’s latest victim. Kinderman starts to doubt his own mind as his investigations lead him to interview patient ‘X’ in the hospital mental ward, a man who looks like Father Damian Karras…

The Exorcist III starts as a serial killer tale and slowly gives way to a bigger story concerning unfinished business from 15 years earlier involving the Gemini killer and the spiritual fight to save the soul of a young girl in Georgetown. The screenplay, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his novel ‘Legion’, is excellent, it’s well crafted and told with the kind of patience rarely seen in horror movies over the last few decades.

Blatty, who also directs, introduces real characters, fleshes them out and gives his actors time and space to perform some excellent dialogue. George C. Scott is solid as usual, as is Ed Flanders; their relationship rings true and feels very natural. Nancy Fish is superb as creepy Nurse Allerton as is Brad Dourif as the Gemini killer; he turns in a fantastic performance; yes it’s hysterically over the top, but it’s also subtle and punctuated with moments of delicious black comedy.

The atmosphere is foreboding and the tension builds as Kinderman closes in on the truth behind the murders. The movie relies on the collective skills of Blatty and his cast to deliver the horror rather than shocking the audience with gore and violence. The killings are not shown; they are described by the investigating officers and are all the more disturbing for it. However, the murder of Nurse Amy Keating (Tracy Thorne) is still one of the best shocks in the genre. The build up is almost interminable but the payoff is well worth it.

My only gripe with the movie is the over the top last 15 minutes. The blood soaked ‘exorcism’ and awful lightning effects lessen the overall effect and feel out of place with the tone of the rest of the movie. Bad contact lenses and those awful lightning effects aside, this is a good film and is the real sequel to the original Exorcist with some genuinely creepy moments; far more worthy than the execrable Exorcist II: The Heretic.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars