The Exorcist is one of the most famous and beloved horror films of all time and for good reason. William Friedkin’s direction, William Peter Blatty’s writing, the legendary performances by Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller and Ellen Burstyn, the makeup by Dick Smith, the theme by Mike Oldfield, it all came together like serendipity to make one of the scariest and masterfully made films ever. Inevitably, when a film is that big of a sensation, sequels are in evitable. Exorcist II: The Heretic came four years later and was a disaster. The franchise stopped for 13 more years until Blatty himself decided to adapt his own novel Legion into a film and direct it himself. At the studio’s insistence the film was named Exorcist III and material was added to connect it more dramatically to the original film. There was much controversy about the studio interference but when it was released into theatres in 1990, I was flabbergasted and found one of my favorite horror films of all time, even rivaling and possibly equaling my love for The Exorcist. The film did not perform well at the box office but has gained a large cult following in the years since. Now the angels at Shout Factory have delivered a 2 disc Collector’s Edition that is a dream come true and even includes a newly assembled Director’s Cut using previously lost footage obtained from old VHS tapes to create a vision of the film more closely resembling Blatty’s original vision.
Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott) has been around Georgetown a long time and has seen a lot. But when a new series of murders seems to follow the same structure as those of a serial killer long dead, Kinderman is confounded. Things get even more puzzling when Kinderman discovers a nameless man sitting in a padded cell who resembles an old acquaintance from a particularly disturbing case in 1973. A man who fell to his death down a long flight of stairs. Now Kinderman must interview the mysterious man to find the key to the murders but the answers he seeks may be more than he can handle.
Exorcist III is a brilliant and ominous film that chills me with every viewing. Blatty has only ever directed two films, this one and The Ninth Configuration in 1980, another outstanding film. With Exorcist III he showed he had just as much visual style as he does with the written word. His story of Kinderman, a character briefly featured in the original film and played there by Lee J. Kobb, is a journey through a man’s faith, a man who has seen the worst humanity has to offer. The long spurts of dialogue are fascinating and intelligent and delivered with incredible gusto by Scott, who gives in my opinion one of his very best performances. He is sad, tired, driven, and passionate and every bit of it shows on Scott’s face. His expressions are priceless. The film has a methodical pace and every frame drips with a heavy, dreadful atmosphere. The production design is gorgeous, the entire cast is phenomenal, especially a great supporting role by veteran character actor Ed Flanders, and Blatty’s writing is poetic, philosophical, and captivating. And on top of all that Exorcist III is damn scary. Once scene in particular has become the stuff of legend and I can tell you when I first saw it in the theatre it literally took my breath away. This is a thinking man’s horror film and one that should be treasured and respected. And Blatty needs to return to directing.
The new 2 disc Collector’s edition contains the original theatrical version of the film featuring a new 2K restored transfer, the newly assembled Legion Director’s Cut, a new audio interview with Blatty, a new five part documentary on the making of the film and tons of vintage special features including deleted scenes, a deleted prologue, vintage interviews with cast and crew, trailers and more. Exorcist III is one of the most essential horror purchases of the year if not ever for me and I cannot recommend it highly enough.