I have been meaning to do this for quite some time now – to pay proper tribute to my favorite horror film, and what is in my opinion, pound for pound, the most underrated horror film in history.
I’ll start off by recounting my first experience watching this film. I think I was about 13 years-old, and I watched it with a good friend of mine in his parent’s basement. At the time, I had already heard about this movie and some of the creepy and chilling, down-right blasphemous imagery contained throughout. As a young kid having grown up in a Catholic house-hold, some of these images were not only scary, but they left me with a sense of guilt for watching them. Good catholic kids weren’t supposed to dabble in this sort of “evil” entertainment. There is no doubt that some of the religious imagery and themes contained throughout the film made a much bigger impact on me due to that Catholic upbringing and sense of watching something I knew I probably shouldn’t have been watching at the time.
Needless to say, my first viewing of this film terrified me to no end. Right from the very start with the opening scene in a church where all is quiet in the night; you can sense there is an evil presence looming. Iconic religious figures change their expressions to reflect the evil that is lurking – and this resulted in an opening scene to a movie that would never leave my mind to this day (and scared the living daylights out of me, too!).
My friend and I would go on to watch this movie probably another 2,476 times; and that’s likely a conservative number. What do I love so much about this movie, and what the hell is so good about it? Read on and I’ll tell you…
The story centers around Lt. Kinderman, played by the, late, legendary actor, George C. Scott. Kinderman and his priest-friend, Father Dyer, both are reflecting on and remembering their other, long deceased, priest-friend, Father Karras (from the first Exorcist film), on the anniversary of his death. I know it seems counter-intuitive to write an article on THE EXORCIST III before even beginning to talk about THE EXORCIST, but that’s what I’m doing here – so I will not be getting into what went on in the first Exorcist film (you should have seen it by now, anyways!), and how Father Karras perished. All you need to know is that the two men I just mentioned were very close friends with Karras, and are down-right depressed remembering their dead-friend. Kinderman and Dyer get together once a year on the date of the anniversary of their friend’s death, and go see the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE to try to cheer up each other. What results is some down-right entertaining and funny dialogue between the two. Here is a sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1knPtU3fzA
While all this is happening, there is a serial killer on the loose – killing his victims in the most sadistic of ways, and also absolutely defacing and desecrating religious icons in the process – offending Catholics everywhere, I’m sure. The evidence investigated by Kinderman and the police, confuses the hell out of them, and just when they think they have the killer figured out, something else happens that throws them off in their investigation. These killings begin to remind everyone in town about the Gemini Killer murders that happened 15 years earlier. The story continues with a patient in the mental ward of the hospital named “Patient X” who claims that he is The Gemini Killer and tries to persuade Lt. Kinderman to notify the media of that claim. Patient X strikes an eerie resemblance to Kinderman’s old-friend, Father Karras as well as switching back-and-forth in appearance as the long ago dead, Gemini Killer.
Patient X is played by the brilliant actor, Brad Dourif. This is a performance for the ages. It is disturbing, angry, funny, and evil. Watch a small sample of this masterful performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dbz20o8YCkY
It’s a shame that such a brilliant performance has for the most part gone so unnoticed in the film industry – even though over the years more horror fans have come to appreciate it and sing its praises. Of course this is not Dourif’s only good role, but it is in my opinion by far his best.
This movie is filled with so many outstanding, terrifying scenes. There is one scene in particular that everyone who has seen this film will talk about and never forget. It is a beautifully crafted scene that does not involve any fancy special effects, cheesy CGI, or loud noises leading up to it. The end result to this day still holds up really well as one of the scariest moments in horror film history. If you wish to see what I’m talking about, you can watch it at this link, but be warned, it is a HUGE spoiler if you have never seen this movie, as it is one of the most unforgettable moments as I have mentioned. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH8ynu0jRvY
There are so many memorable scenes, including a disturbing dream sequence in which there are cameo appearances from, Fabio, Patrick Ewing and Larry King; A genuinely creepy scene set in a Church’s confessional which is a perfect example of a scene not requiring a lot of visible violence or display of gore – what is suggested is what adds to the fear factor, not what is shown in this case. The ending scene is also one of the finest acts of the battle with possession; of good and evil. Kinderman delivers an amazing speech to finally acknowledge to The Gemini that he believes…
Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSJiej4yTAY
I absolutely love George C. Scott’s performance as the old, crusty, grumpy, charming, Lt. Kinderman. The different emotions he displays are vast, even if on the surface you may think of his character as very one-dimensional. There are several moments that actually make me laugh quite hard to this day – scenes where C. Scott’s character, Kinderman absolutely loses it on people. Here’s a taste of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv9BS9heZ1I
So, not only does THE EXORCIST III contain some of the scariest scenes ever produced in a horror film, but some of the funniest as well. When Kinderman interviews the Nurse at the Hospital and loses his patience with her, it is absolute hilarity!
I have come this far in this post and have still yet to mention this man’s name…WILLIAM PETER BLATTY. The author and director really should have done more film work. His direction in this film is flawless, even though I have read somewhere that there were many cuts made to this movie – all of which are supposedly lost cuts, unfortunately. Blatty of course, sure knows how to write. His novel LEGION – which this film is based on – is also one of the more memorable novels I read in my childhood. Blatty deserved an Oscar for this film — call me crazy, I don’t care, I truly believe this! He has won several awards, however, none of them for this film:
- The Commonwealth Club Silver Medal for Literature (“The Exorcist”)
- The Gabriel Award and American Film Festival Blue Ribbon for Blatty’s “Insight” series TV episode, “Watts Made Out of Thread?”
- Knight of Mark Twain (For Novel “John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!)
- Saturn Awards for “The Exorcist” and for “The Ninth Configuration”
- The People’s Choice Award for the Oscars” – Best Picture Award for “The Exorcist”
- The Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Academy Award, Best Screenplay (“The Exorcist”)
- Golden Globe, Best Writing (“Twinkle, Twinkle ‘Killer’ Kane!)
- Golden Globe, Best Picture (“The Exorcist”)
- Golden Globe, Best Writing (“The Exorcist”)
I still have yet to watch the other full-feature film he directed – THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, but still plan to see it some day.
THE EXORCIST III is one of those films that I will always enjoy watching – especially with people who have never seen it before. I can safely say that this movie, which is now getting close to 22-years-old, is still better than most of the new horror films hollywood churns out these days, and is aging like a very fine wine. It has not lost any of its effectiveness even now that I am much older than when I first watched it. Watching it alone is more do-able now than when I was 12 or 13 years of age, but it still creeps me out to no end. For now, it still sits atop the throne of my favorite horror films of all-time, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Maybe one day I will post my list of my Top Horror Films, which is no easy task.
Hopefully some day a Special Edition Blu-Ray of this film will be released with some sweet extras. It may be unrealistic to expect this for several reasons — There isn’t a high demand for it despite there being a loyal, hardcore fan base that has grown over the years, and probably the biggest reason; a lot of the extra material is lost. It would still be awesome if they could interview some of the people who were involved with the film, and include a kick-ass HD transfer. A fan can only hope…
Needless to say, this film gets a 5/5 from me.
Have you seen this gem? Comments are welcome!