“Gracious me. Was I raving? Please forgive me. I’m mad.”
Justin’s rating: “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” (Mark 5:10)
Justin’s review: Sort of like how Halloween III: Season of the Witch was in no way related to the rest of the Halloween franchise, many movie buffs dismiss The Exorcist II as a lame mistake and move straight on to The Exorcist III as the “true” sequel to the creepy psychological horror classic. It helps that William Blatty came back on board to pen the script from a novel (Legion) coincidentally also written by him.
Following the (literally) scary-as-hell exorcism of a nasty demon from a little girl in the first movie, Exorcist III picks up quite some time later, as Satan’s demonic army proves that they’re not quite out for the count. A series of grisly murders seem to point to a notorious serial killer – who was supposed to be executed years ago. World-weary Detective Kinderman (George C. Scott) follows the trail to a hospital/mental asylum, where the patients aren’t what they appear, and the priest killed at the end of the first film seems to be back… more or less.
If Exorcist III is anything, it’s talky. Characters on the brink of an epic spiritual battle seem to prefer standing around, looking morbid, and passing the time with conversations that are rationed out to about one line per thirty seconds. As a viewer, I wanted to physically leap into the movie and start pushing the characters to hurry up and get going, but a running leap at my TV set only produced a lump the size of a plum on my forehead.
Kinderman seems to be the wrong sort to go up against pure evil, having very little faith in God or man himself. Still, once he starts conversing with the demon in Brad Dourif’s body, the tension ratchets up a notch as it did in The Exorcist, because we’re once again given good reason that this mere human is way, way over his head. The action and horror uptick sharply in the final act, and the end result is something that could be liked or rejected, depending on how you flip a coin.
Blatty continues to impress me, because he was both a man of faith and a horror writer – two things that seemingly don’t go together. Yet in these two Exorcist films and in his Ninth Configuration, Blatty uses the darkest aspects of the world as an investigatory tool of the nature of evil and its place in God’s plan. No matter what your stance on this might be, his perspective gives these films more depth than the usual horror gauntlet, because evil and good exist to hold a purpose, not just to frighten scantily-clad schoolgirls and come up with a witty one-liner after they stab the killer for good.