Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Exorcist III, The (1990)

...aka: Exorcist III: Legion

Directed by:
William Peter Blatty

Taking a much different approach than the first two EXORCIST films will either infuriate or please viewers and there's just no arguing with people on the merits of this film, because something can be said for those who love it and for those who hate it. I definitely am in the former camp, but regardless you have to admire the nerve it took William Peter Blatty to bring his distinct vision to the screen and take some big creative chances with this film. It's intelligent, overly-complicated and at times quite messy, but there's nothing else out there quite like it. Skeptical police lieutenant Bill Kinderman (George C. Scott), investigates a series of ghastly decapitation murders in Georgetown which seem to bear the trademark of James Venamun (Brad Dourif), "The Gemini Killer," a sacrilegious sick-o who struck the town years earlier. The only problem is the killer was executed fifteen years ago and it was on the same night as Father Damien Karras' plunge down the stairs after performing the exorcism in the original. Locked up deep in the bowels of a mental hospital is Patient X (Jason Miller), who bears a striking resemblance to Karras and has first-hand knowledge of the crimes, both new and old. Did the Gemini killer somehow take over his body prior to his death? And exactly who has been going around town killing people?

The scenes of Nicol Williamson as an exorcist who seemingly comes out of nowhere toward the end were added because the producers felt the film needed an exorcism scene so audiences wouldn't get confused, which basically means the studio who financed it take the general viewing public as idiots. I guess they figured audiences would be disappointed without the literal exorcism taking place. Wrong! Despite getting critically blasted upon releases, this film has developed a strong fan following over the years. Does it deserve one? In my opinion, yes.

The entire cast (especially Scott, Dourif and Miller) is excellent, the characters are well-defined, the dialogue is intelligent, there's creepy atmosphere to burn and some wonderfully creepy and scary scenes (though many of the horrible things to occur in this film are implied, not graphically shown). One scene in particular, set in the hospital where most of this film takes place, is an absolutely brilliantly staged shock that gets just about everyone who views it. The film as a whole is challenging, sometimes frustrating and doesn't always run as smoothly as one might hope, but give it a chance. And give the director credit for trying something different, including a dream sequence set in heaven featuring Big Band music, tarot card readers and winged angels (including Samuel L. Jackson, romance novel cover boy Fabio and basketball star Patrick Ewing!). Dr. C Everett Koop and Larry King both appear as themselves, and Colleen Dewhurst provides the voice of Satan. Blatty scripted from his own 1983 novel "Legion."


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