Written & Directed By: William Peter Blatty
George C. Scott
Tonight was Oscar night, and like every other Oscar night for the past thirty-seven years, there wasn’t a single horror film nominated. That is, not since director William Friedkin adapted a novel by author William Peter Blatty about a normal American girl, who becomes possessed by the devil.
If you ask a roomful of horror fans to write a list of what they consider to be the top five scariest films ever made, it would be a safe bet that The Exorcist would be on 99% of those lists. It is widely considered to be the scariest film ever made, and while it has been subjected to a barrage of parodies and countless homages, it is still every bit as frightening today as it was when it was first released in 1973.
A film with such commercial success and critical acclaim was too good to be left alone, and thus a sequel was filmed four years later, helmed by John Boorman and starring original actress Linda Blair. It goes without saying that any movie that follows what is considered the scariest film of all timewill naturally fall short – the Exorcist 2: Heretic is generally regarded as the weakest installment in the series, and overall just a poorly made horror film (though in this reviewer’s opinion, the film did have merits worth mentioning, and will be discussed in a later review).
After the disappointing sequel, the Exorcist series lay dormant for years until author William Peter Blatty decided to adapt his novel, “Legion”, into what would become The Exorcist: Part 3. Writing and directing himself, Blatty picked up the storyline and characters from the first film, while changing the tone and atmosphere drastically. The film, released in 1990, is highly reflective of the shift that was occuring in horror cinema at the time. Ever-so-slowly the monster in movies was changing; away from the ridiculousness of unstoppable Boogeymen and fantastic creatures, and towards the dark side of humanity itself. This redefinition of horror, which showed that the actions within human nature are far more disturbing than anything dreamt up, is still aggressively being explored in today’s modern horror films.
The Exorcist 3 was successful for this very reason: it didn’t seek to simply re-do the first film (which is one of the criticisms of part two), but managed to develop the storyline and characters further, in a different type of setting and with a darker, more grisly plot. The writing, which is always the foundation for the film, is as solid as can be. Blatty’s flair for dialogue is well crafted, and superbly delivered by the talented cast. George C. Scott’s portrayal of Lieutenant Kinderman is powerful, believable, and ultimately what makes the film interesting and compelling to watch.
The film may explore the sadistic side of mankind, but it’s also in a large part a supernatural horror film dealing with the same topic as the previous two films: demonic possession. Horror fans will not be disappointed by this incredibly overlooked and neglected film which, without a doubt, is a worthy sequel to the first film and deserving of more praise than it has received.