Friday, October 26, 2012


Terminator 2, Godfather 2, Rocky 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, the list goes on. The second part of any trilogy/saga/franchise is key. It’s the glue that holds everything together. The bridge between the beginning and the end of the story where all the crucial & memorable stuff happens. It’s the big rematch (Rocky 2), the shocking discovery (Darth Vader reveals he's Luke's father), the loss or death of a major character (Fredo in The Godfather) and more action (Terminator 2). The Exorcist should have honestly just been left to stand alone as one iconic movie. I mean, I understand - it was such a huge hit movie studios wanted to milk it as much as they could. But if you're gonna make a sequel to a classic the least you could do is not make it a total disaster...which is what the Exorcist sequel was. We all know the first Exorcist wasn’t your typical horror film about some monster or supernatural serial killer out to get someone. It was about religion, faith, the loss of innocence, hidden inside of the kinda horror film that no one had really seen yet. Every Exorcist film besides parts 1 & 3 have been cursed or doomed in some way. Part 2 was so awful that we didn’t get the often forgotten about third part until almost 13 years later. Now, the Exorcist part 3 isn’t the MOST forgotten about film in the world, however on more than one occasion I've honestly heard people say; "There's a third Exorcist movie?" And the prequels that came out in 2004 were cursed with post production and editing issues. Exorcist 3 is part of a special group of underrated "Part 3's" that got overlooked or unfairly treated because the film before it was either too bad, disappointing or too good (Alien 3, Exorcist 3, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest). I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again - late night cable TV programming between the late 80's and early 90's was the best. We never got anything like the Z Channel on the east coast but HBO, Cinemax and The Movie Channel after 10pm on the weekdays featured everything from French art house to Don The Dragon Wilson's best work and everything else in between. The Exorcist 3 was one of the best late night discoveries from my childhood. Instead of trying to make things bigger, better and more shocking (like part 2 tried to do), this one was a scaled back smaller film that takes us back to the very beginning - Georgetown, Catholicism, Father Karras, the famous staircase he killed himself on, etc. Exorcist part 2 was so off the wall with all the voodoo nonsense that William Peter Blatty (author of the first Exorcist and director of another underrated film: The Ninth Configuration) had to come back, take control and bring some legitimacy back to the franchise he started by directing part 3.

This Exorcist, which takes place 15 years after the events of the first one, centers around Detective Kinderman from the first film (played by George C. Scott in a role originally played by Lee Cobb in the first film). Hes working a case of a series of killings that mimic the style of a dead serial killer known as "The Gemini Killer" which eventually leads him to a nursing home of possessed old people and a few old friends from the past (Pazuzu and Father Karras). The gruesome killings mimic everything right down to the details that were kept a secret by the police back in the 70's when The Gemini was on his rampage. As the investigation continues on and Kinderman digs further, things get personal when his friend; father Dyer (another supporting character from the original Exorcist also played by a different actor) is murdered with a personal "note" left behind that only Kinderman would get. Things get even creepier and more supernatural when Pazuzu, the demon that possessed Reagan in the first film, takes over the bodies of old people in a nursing home and gets them to commit copycat crimes of the Gemini killer (Pazuzu also returns in the form of father Karras). With all the connections to the first film, this feels more like the real sequel than the actual sequel (and the fact that Blatty had nothing to do with the part 2 makes part 3 feel more connected to the first too).

Atmosphere and pacing where two major strengths in this film that pretty much went unnoticed. Exorcist 3 managed to capture that cold/grey/windy fall D.C./mid-atlantic vibe that we saw in the first Exorcist. This may not have been directed by William Friedken but his style is everywhere. This exorcist is more of a supernatural neo-noir or a psychological thriller than it is a traditional horror film. That's kinda what I love so much about part 3 is that the first half of this film feels like a detective film with this looming presence of creepiness or a thin layer of horror. The more the film goes on you know something supernatural or frightening is on the horizon. But its still not without its share of creepy moments - in one quick scene we see one of the elderly women from the nursing home possessed and crawling around on the ceiling (a movie moment that's always stayed with me since I was 10) There's another scene that always bugged me out as a kid - early on in the film when Detective Kinderman is home late at night his dauthter comes downstairs in the dark for a brief moment and I swear she looks exactly like Reagan (Linda Blair) from the first film for a split second. These Exorcist films are no stranger to subliminal or hidden messages so I wouldn't put it past Blatty for placing that scene in the film to yet again remind us of the first one (you'll have to excuse me, I recently watched Room 237, a documentary about far fetched subliminal messages in The Shining, so ive been looking at horror films differently ever since). This one may not have turning heads, projectile vomit, defiled crosses or classic lines like: "Do you know what she did? Your cunting daughter?" But it still features great performances from great actors like George C. Scott, Brad Douriff & Jason Miller, along with some pretty random cameos (Patrick Ewing, Fabio and Larry King). Lets also not forget The Exorcist 3 has one of the greatest startle scenes in a horror film in quite some time...

Is The Exorcist Part 3 a classic? Did it have the same impact or spawn a million bad knock-off films where some little girl gets possessed like the first Exorcist did? No, of course not. But it got an unfair shake no-thanks to the stigma left behind by its predecessor; The (awful) Exorcist Part 2: The Heretic. But thanks to the small cult following (and movie blogs like PINNLAND EMPIRE) it’s been slowly getting the recognition it deserves.

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