The Exorcist III Movie Review
Burdened with a disastrous prior sequel, E3 effectively rescues the franchise with earnest terror and dark wit. Writer and director William Peter Blatty, the man who scribed the novel and screenplay to the original Exorcist, completely ignores the heresy that was Exorcist II: The Heretic, and picks up 15 years after the first installment with a story loaded with dastardly twists, dreadful things that lurk just off-screen, and Brad Dourif.
Although George C. Scott serves dutifully in the starring role as Lt. Bill Kinderman, a D.C. cop investigating a string of murders that bear an uncanny resemblance to those committed by another killer executed years earlier, Dourif steals the show as the murderer. Dourif was born to play this type of role; you have to wonder if, when he was growing up, any parents in his neighborhood would let their kids play with him. While Blatty mostly eschews the gore you might expect from this type of movie, the lengthy scenes of Dourif mind-gaming Scott in a dark cell with Blatty's killer dialogue might give you recurring nightmares.
To wit: "A decapitated head can continue to see for approximately 20 seconds. So when I have one that's gawking, I always hold it up so that it can see its body. It's a little extra I throw in for no added charge."
If that doesn't give you shivers, than lots of other stuff in E3 will, including a scene in a hospital that'll have you digging your date's fingernails out of your arm. Just for relief, watch for the excellent cameos, including both Fabio and a youngish Patrick Ewing as the Angel of Death. (Hey, it's Georgetown, right?)
Unfortunately, the ending - especially the titular exorcism - feels tacked on, and that's because it was. Blatty wanted to call the movie Legion, which was the title of the novel upon which he adapted this movie, but the production studio demanded he throw the word "Exorcist" into the title and, naturally, include a priest casting a demon out of an earthly body. So he did.
After that experience, it's no wonder that Blatty's never directed another feature film. But it is a shame. Exorcist III is a fantastic horror/suspense movie for grownups.