Nerdbot October Horror Reviews - When The Exorcist III "It's a problem I'm working on,
The idea of demonic possession is such a touchy subject for some. Such an invasion of the mind and body is the ultimate in fear for some people, and the idea alone is more than some can handle. It's an interesting thing to discuss because just like religion itself, everyone has a different and unique view on it. Some believe it doesn't exist at all, some believe people that murder are possessed, some believe that many people walking around society today are "perfectly possessed" as a priest once called it. Up until fairly recently in our medical history as a society, it was commonplace for some people to believe that the mentally ill were possessed. Obviously, you can't talk about the issue in modern times without bringing up "The Exorcist", the 1973 classic that so adequately explored the issue. The sequel is universally panned, though probably not as horrible as most say. However, the 3rd film of the series, is actually a pretty fantastic piece of work that can more than hold it's own against the original, especially if you love cerebral horror. The film itself, while directly connected to the original, was written and directed by William Peter Blatty, the writer of the original, as well as the book it was based on. Based on his novel titled "Legion", as most movie studios do, they interfered with the production and wanted to ride off the fame of the first, and shoehorned some of the things that connects it to the first. Exactly where and what that was, I'm not entirely sure, but the movie apparently originally never even featured any kind of scenes relating to an exorcism. They were forced to go back and change the last third of the movie. Fortunately, and surprisingly, we're left with a very competent and intriguing film, even though it probably will remind you more of something like "Se7en". The performance of our main character, Lt. Kinderman, by screen legend George C. Scott, is actually one of my favorite performances by any actor, in any film. He says and does everything with such intensity and conviction, and he has such a weight on screen. Even in scenes where he is silent, his body movement and *especially* facial expressions are magnetising. The film starts very ominous, showings scenes of Georgetown, the setting of the original. It's obvious that a malevolent force has come into town, with a voiceover saying "I have dreams...of a rose..and of falling down a flight of stairs." One thing that is obviously upsetting to some people is portrayal of religious imagery, which is kind of ironic. In my mind, religious imagery should usually be looked at in a positive and uplifting way, yet all you have to do is show a cross or a crucifix in a horror movie and it's deeply disturbing to some. Or at least it is in this movie, where Jesus statues open their eyes as the evil rolls into the church. Cut to Kinderman at the scene of a crime, where a 12 year old kid was brutally murdered. The details of the acts in this movie are pretty extreme. It isn't just a murder. It's murders than include decapitations, nails through the eyes, etc. Granted, we don't ever really see much of it, which is refreshingly original, but it's some pretty brutal stuff. Kinderman's best friend, a priest, is murdered shortly thereafter and the scene of the crime points to it being committed by the Gemini killer, a serial killer that was executed 15 years ago.
Kinderman is introduced to a man that has been locked up in a mental institution, catatonic for the last while, yet recently he has started making claims that he is the Gemini killer. How can this be? Now, this is where some contention in the film is for me personally, as it's not bad, it just gets visually confusing and busy at times. The Gemini killer is played by Brad Dourif, who is great in everything he's ever done. However, when Kinderman goes to visit him in his cell, Kinderman says that the man looks just like Father Damien Karras, the priest from the first film. There's this weird thing in the movie where the character constantly switches between actors, and while it makes sense (kind of), it's odd. The way I understand it, Brad Dourif is the real Gemini killer, but he has possessed Father Karras, played by Jason Miller. So from a viewer's standpoint, he's essentially two characters in one. Reading back on the behind the scenes info, apparently Jason Miller wasn't available during shooting, so they casted another actor, then went back and shot scenes with him and ended up splicing them together, so we see the demon and the man he's possessing separately even though it's technically one body. Sounds more confusing than it really is, it's just something that always distracted me. A huge part of the movie is strictly scene chewing dialogue between George C. Scott and Brad Dourif, which is great. They're both amazing actors and it's nice to see a horror movie put a more serious focus on characters and pure dialogue. Instead of really just seeing some maniac running around cutting people's heads off, we're told about it. The who's, and what's and why's. It's all exposition but in a way that pushes the story forward. There are a couple of very effective jump scares in this movie, and obviously I won't spoil them, but there is a scene in this movie that comes out of nowhere that many, many people online have listed amongst the things that scared them the most. It's hard to talk about it without spoiling it, but it deserves to be seen in it's natural state. I trust that you'll know it when you see it. It's not a gory scene or anything like that, just something that comes out of nowhere and jolts you. So ultimately, our big conclusion comes with Lt. Kinderman facing his demons, so to speak, and confronting the Gemini. It's a pretty fitting end, though not really surprising and somewhat clichéd. I did like how they portrayed Kinderman as basically finding his faith during this confrontation, as in the rest of the movie, he's a very kind of grizzled, unemotional, agnostic guy. It reinforces the idea that even the most hardened of people can find faith in *something* when they need it the most.
Some would probably argue my even including this movie on my list of horror films. A strong case can be made that it's way more a suspense thriller, but you have to look at the essence of what horror is, what it means. Horror isn't necessarily just a guy chasing teenagers down with a chainsaw. Webster's defines horror as "an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear". I compared this movie to "Se7en" earlier, which I'm sure you're familiar with, and which is, for my money, one of the best movies ever made, and that's a movie that I would consider unabashed horror. Shocking? Yes. Terrifying? Without a doubt. Revolting? You bet. I can easily use those same words to describe "The Exorcist III", if only on a purely mental level. It may not be as just outright visually shocking, but what's the point of imagination if we can't use it? "The Exorcist III" gets 8 Pazuzu demons out of 10!