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Movie Review

Movie Review: A Great Horror Film With An Unfortunate Name

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"I want to talk about the other masterpiece in the series: The Exorcist III."

I recently rewatched The Exorcist, and one thing I’d certainly forgotten is how gritty it is. A lot of movies from the 1970s had a dirty realism that was specific to that era, and this one fits right in. It’s not surprising when you think about it—William Peter Blatty, who wrote the book and the screenplay, supposedly hand-picked William Friedkin to direct because he wanted the same feel as Friedkin’s 1971 film The French Connection. It’s an unexpected choice, but one that worked.

But I’m not actually here to talk about The Exorcist. I want to talk about the other masterpiece in the series: The Exorcist III.

It’s reasonable if you’ve ignored the movie’s existence, so let’s start with that title. It’s based on a book by Blatty called Legion, which was the result of a failed project from a decade earlier. Realistically, that’s what the movie should be called—that would have helped it avoid the stigma of horror sequels, which are a dime a dozen. What’s more, there wasn’t even supposed to be an exorcism involved, but Blatty, who also directed this film, had that thrust upon him by the studio, for understandable but misguided reasons.

As for the movie itself, it’s strange, and truly disturbing, and also apocalyptic on a level the original Exorcist wasn’t. It revisits the police lieutenant Kinderman, now played by George C. Scott, as he investigates what may be the return of a serial killer, which is odd, since that killer was executed 15 years before. There are plenty of horrifying images and one of the best jump scares ever, but the real meat and terror of the movie comes with just two men talking, Kinderman and the man who may be the returned killer. For much of those scenes, the camera simply focuses on the face of Brad Dourif as he delivers nightmarish monologues in what must be one of the great horror performances put on screen.

The other discoveries of The Exorcist III I’ll leave to you, and there are many. Call the movie Legion in your mind if you must, or whatever it takes to get you to watch it. But do watch it: Despite its unfortunate name, it’s one of the great horror films in all of cinema.

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Follow Fletcher Powell on Twitter @Fletcher_Powell.