The Exorcist III (1990)

The original The Exorcist is considered a classic of American horror cinema. Exorcist II: The Heretic movie was a bizarre acid trip involving psychics and locust plagues that just doesn’t work. But The Exorcist III brings in George C. Scott as a homicide detective to investigate the possible ghost of a serial killer, and along the way he learns that possession can be used for disturbing effect. The Exorcist III is so much better than Exorcist II. Hell, I’m gonna admit a cardinal sin and declare I liked it more than the original. Send all hate mail through the Contact Me page.

Whereas I laughed at The Exorcist, because it really is a hilarious movie, and I cringe at whatever the fuck Exorcist II was, the investigative aspect of The Exorcist III made it a much more compelling watch; I wasn’t here for the religion, I was here for the police procedural with a supernatural twist. And what a crazy twist. For a movie that often sticks with static shots and a minimalist soundtrack, The Exorcist III uses sound effects, lighting, and cramped angles along with the occasional hallucinatory image to really make an effective horror film. I love it. It leaves a lot of the worst up to imagination but still shows enough to tell you that something is truly frightening here. Yes, there are allusions to demons, but it’s the ghost of a man that is the worst thing here. There are jump scares, but they’re well handled and never feel hamfisted. When gore is shown, its minimal, and quite possibly the most shocking kill is only implied.

Here we have George C. Scott investigating a string of murders by a serial killer…who was executed 17 years before the murders took place. And 17 years before, a man with amnesia was admitted to a mental hospital, a man who appears to be the long dead Father Karras but now claims he’s the Gemini Killer that was executed. Now Scott’s on the case to find out if the murders really are being committed by the Gemini Killer’s spirit, which is busily possessing the senile to go about his murders and who has a thing for wanting to make Scott suffer. Worse yet, Gemini is also hard at work doing the bidding of a dark and twisted patron which may well be the demon Pazuzu. Yeah, this movie ends in blood and gunfire.

I have to praise one particular scene involving hedge clippers, a locked door, and a headless statue. It’s not the only decapitation in the film, and it’s not even shown, but it uses a static shot and a sudden zoom in and sound effect with incredible effectiveness. My favorite part? It shows the victim locking the door that will portend doom right before that door is wrenched open. This scene is actually what drove me to seek out the film in the first place, as I was told it was the “scariest scene of all time” in a film. Look, that’s a stupidly big thing to declare, and I take umbrage with it any time I hear something like that said, but it still got me to look up the movie. I’m glad I did. Even if it’s not the scariest scene of all time, it’s a damn good one. Learn from this!

I loved The Exorcist III. Seriously, this made my day. It’s not my favorite of Scott’s work in horror films (The Changeling is freaking bad ass), but it’s up there.

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