THE EXORCIST III a.k.a. Legion: A Tribute to my Favorite Horror Film of All-Time.

The Exorcist III (1990)

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.

As the evil presence blows into the church, the eyes of this Christ statue open. CREEPY.

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

The Gemini Killer vs. Lt. Kinderman

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.

Brad Dourif as The Gemini Killer a.k.a. Patient X

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

One of the murder weapons?

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!

A Nurse pays a special visit to Kinderman’s family.

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:

*Awards include:

  • 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”)
*Source: IMDB.com

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!

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About jpthorn

If you would like to submit books or films for review, e-mail me at thehorrorbooth@gmail.com
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34 Responses to THE EXORCIST III a.k.a. Legion: A Tribute to my Favorite Horror Film of All-Time.

  1. theipc says:

    I wrote a very similar article about this movie over on my site you could check out if you liked. This is one of my favorite movies of all time, horror or not, and it’s embedded in my memory. Every time I hear the word “Kevin” I immediately think of this. Actually, I guess, anytime I think about anything I think about this. Good job!

  2. I BELIEVE IN PAIN!!!!!

  3. milkbone1979 says:

    Great review, you explain all different aspects of the greatest horror movie of all time. Cheers.

  4. milkbone1979 says:

    Great review, you describe all the aspects of the best horror film of all time. Can’t wait to watch it again.

  5. I don’t remember if I’ve ever seen this one or not, but it definitely looks familiar! Great post! It was Dahmer’s favorite movie too! *lol*

  6. Yes! I said THREE! Go watch it right now! NOW, I say!

  7. James Newman says:

    So very cool to see THE EXORCIST III: LEGION getting some love! Words can’t describe how much I adore this movie. It’s definitely one of my Top Five Favorite Horror Films of All Time. And I might even go so far as to say I consider it the *scariest* of all time. I’ve witnessed grown men curl up into fetal positions, holding onto a pillow for dear life, at certain points in the film as they watch it for the first time (no, I’m not kidding). Although I’ve seen it countless times, I still have a hard time watching it alone late at night.

    Great post!

    J.N.

    • jpthorn says:

      You obviously have great taste in horror, James!

      One of my favorite things about this film is definitely watching it with people who have never seen it before; it almost feels like I’m watching it for the first time myself, and I love to see the reactions. Interestingly enough, I have viewed it with people that were not very scared at all!

      It still baffles me why this film is not more popular and well-known. There is just so much to like about it as a fan of horror.

      Again, thank you for the comment, James!

      • James Newman says:

        You know what’s weird? I’m ashamed to admit this, but when I saw it for the first time back in high school I wasn’t impressed. I remember telling my other horror-loving pals that it was “too slow, too talky.”

        I have no idea what was wrong with me. I must have had my head stuck up my ass.

        ‘Cause when I saw it again years later, it quickly became one of my favorite movies. The weird, off-kilter dialogue and awkward interaction between characters is part of what makes the movie so effective. It feels “wrong”, and sets you on edge from the very beginning.

        Love it.

        J.N.

  8. Keiser Sose says:

    The first time I saw this movie was in the theater with a crowd that expected to see the original. Needless to say most of the comments were how it sucked and was too talky but it didn’t phase me at all – this is the scariest movie of all time and I am so glad to have seen it in its original run. The two scariest scenes of all time were amazing on the big screen and the Dolby sound amped the scare factor up to 12. The statue changing scene was great because it was off centre and you had to really look for it – when your eye eventually caught the scary image I almost peed myself because it was so unexpected. I still have trouble watching it at night and love introducing it to all my horror fan friends. I hope for a blu ray in the future, would love to see a re-mastered version. Thanks for sharing the love.

    • jpthorn says:

      Wow, that’s great. Thanks for sharing! That scene with the statue you mentioned is an example of the subtlety with the horror in this movie. Let’s pray for a bluray version some day!

  9. thegemini7 says:

    Little noticed at the time, unfortunately, was Ralph Npvak’s review in PEOPLE Magazine:
    “As a movie writer/director, William Peter Blatty is David Lynch’s good twin. He is eccentric. original, funny and daring, but he also has a sense of taste, pace and restraint. Which is by way of saying that this is one of the shrewdest, wittiest, most intense and most satisfying horror movies ever made.” Then, too, Vincent Canby of the N.Y. Times deemed it “better than either of its predecessors.” Alas, it was doubtless the number III in the title that killed it at the box-office,
    reminding the public of the wretched Exorcist II. Pity.

  10. Ulrich says:

    Great Horror Film and Police Procedural. That opening sequence is amazing.

  11. Tracy says:

    I was just watching that absolutely terrible piece of drivel, Exorcist 2, waiting for 3 to start and trying to pass the time (because part 2 is just so, so awful) when I came across your article. How right you are…The Exorcist 3 is one of the very best horror films I’ve ever seen, terrifying and brilliantly put together. Thanks for helping pass the minutes till it starts…oh goody, it’s starting now!

  12. Gabe says:

    I loved your review and tribute to this film. The IFC channel just played a marathon of the Exorcist films. I only remember seeing a few scenes of this film maybe 15 years ago, never seeing the whole film for what it is. I always assumed Exorcist I was the best in the series, because I had never watched part III in its entirety, and Exorcist II was terrible. Thank goodness I recorded this film on DVR to watch over and over. I am blown away how great of a movie this is, and how very creepy it is! It is now my favorite horror film of all time, and I can’t wait to watch it with my girlfriend. The plot is so well done, and it’s such a scary movie that I don’t think I willever grow tired of watching it. A true buried treasure in the history of horror films!

  13. Robbie Lamb says:

    Not only is this my favorite horror movie of all time, it is one of my top 5 favorite movies period. The scene in the confessional booth sent chills down my spine. There’s not a dull scene in this entire movie

    • jpthorn says:

      That is also one of my favorite scenes of any movie period. Often, the hospital scene gets all the fame in this movie, but there are many other masterfully crafted, intense scenes; that confessional one is just so good in so many ways, it’s hard to describe.

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