The Exorcist III
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For more than fifteen years Police Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) has been haunted by the death of his friend Father Damien Karras. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the exorcism that claimed the priests life, Kindermans world is once again shattered when a boy is found decapitated and savagely crucified. Its just the beginning of a nightmare series of bizarre religious murders.
The brutal murders bear the hallmarks of the infamous Gemini Killer…who died in the electric chair fifteen years earlier. But when a psychopath claiming to be the Gemini Killer reveals intimate, gruesome details that only the true killer could possibly know, Kinderman is confronted with a horrifying truth that he cannot explain…and that will shake him to the core.
The Exorcist III is author/filmmaker William Peter Blattys personal vision of what followed after The Exorcist. Like the original, The Exorcist III combines elements of a detective story, a theological puzzle, and an unforgettable study in terror.
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This film has a bit of a storied history attached to it, with the theatrical version being a far different film from what writer/director William Peter Blatty had intended. This Scream Factory release does a great job of documenting this by including not only some candid behind the scenes featurettes with key cast and crew but the "Legion" cut of the film itself, a patchwork cut of the film culled together from available sources. The featurettes on their own are informative and insightful, with some killer quotes from a few of the people involved but this new cut of the film doesn't really fare as well. The sources used to put the film together are of VHS quality and screened in 4:3 ratio for one, which provides for a pretty jarring viewing experience whenever the new/alternate scenes come up. As for the overall film itself, this may be one of the few times in my life where a studio's meddling on a film actually made it a better film than what was originally meant to be. The theatrical version is here of course and looks and sounds pretty darn good, with a 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix that's pretty heavy on the low end side of things. The picture looks good. It's not pitch perfect but far above what's been available previously.
All fans of this film would do well to pick this one up. It's a solid horror film and a lot smarter than most of them, especially the ones released over the last ten to fifteen years. The extras make this even more of a must buy and overall, I can completely recommend this one to those who can enjoy a slow burn horror film that can get pretty intense at times.
For those people reading reviews to determine if they should watch this movie for the first time: This is the film adaptation of William Peter Blatty's novel "Legion" which he wrote as a sequel to "The Exorcist". The plot does not cleanly fall into the horror genre like its predecessor; rather it seems to fit better in a supernatural detective thriller, something closer to the noir genre. Kinderman, the detective who investigated Burke Denning's death in the first story, is back investigating a string of homicides. The only connections are Regan's exorcism and a long-dead serial killer. The book was meant to be an exploration of good and evil, of (Catholic) God's plan for us. The movie, rewritten by Blatty himself (who is notorious for revising his own work), is more narrow and simply acts as a basic search for God. This movie is far more philosophical on the surface than "The Exorcist" and therefore is slower in pace and more contemplative. Personally, I have always loved it, but it isn't for everyone.
On the Scream Factory Blu-Ray release: I could not have been happier with this release. As a fan of the film, I have always hoped that something of the cut footage would be found and restored in the form of a Director's Cut. The film is well-known for being overwhelmed by unsatisfied studio execs who just wanted another "Exorcist". While the original negatives couldn't be located, video tape of the dailies were found with a large portion of the original cut of the film still intact. Scream Factory did its best to splice those scenes back into the film (they are VHS-quality and in full-frame) and restore the film as close to Blatty's approved script as possible. The result is a 2-disc extravaganza for fans of the film. Disc 1 contains a beautiful 2k version of the theatrical cut of the film (previously the only cut available at all except for the ambitious Spicediver fan edit, which was an early, unauthorized attempt to create a director's cut) with a wonderful mastering of the sound. Included on this disc are a collection of interviews with cast and crew which, while probably available somewhere, were never on any DVD release of this film, so will probably be new to most fans. Also of note on this disc is a collection of cut footage (some of which isn't even in the Director's Cut) and outtakes which are fascinating to watch. Some of the bloopers are quite funny.
The big draw for this release of the film is Disc 2: The Director's Cut. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but the most notable changes are the completely restored original performance by Brad Dourif as the Gemini Killer/Damian and a completely different ending with no exorcism scene. Dourif's performance in this version is far more subtle than in the theatrical cut (which was his second version of the part) and, in my opinion, more creepy. The tension stems from his almost flippant discussion of murder and evil, his casual nature as opposed to his insistent and violent theatrical version. I don't know that I prefer one approach over the other (Dourif alone or Dourif/Miller combo), as they both have their merits. The ending to this cut of the film is perhaps more bleak and open-ended. It was abrupt and jarring, and still not like the ending to the novel. Overall, I find this cut to be closer in style and nature to the novel, so it wins me over there. Whether I would say one cut of the film is superior to the other, I cannot be sure. I've spent so much time appreciating the theatrical version that I could never turn my back on it completely.
Special features on Disc 2 are plentiful, but the multi-part "Making of" feature is absolutely enlightening for fans. Everyone has their own opinion of how this movie went, with blame being predictably placed on everyone (studio people blame Blatty, Dourif blames studio...). The fact that everyone is probably correct demonstrates what a confused mess the production of this film probably was. It also paints the film's creation in a whole new light, one that breaks down the creative process of adapting a novel to screen, how actors approach their roles, how cast and crew get along, and how the industry has so many factions with various (sometimes competing) goals. Couple this with the interview with Blatty himself, which acts as a proxy for a director's commentary, and you get a fairly complete picture of the making of this film, one that is far more honest than almost any behind-the-scenes features have ever been (save for Bill Condon's self-flagellating commentary for "Candyman 2").
Overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Blatty's work overall, and definitely fans of this film specifically. The Director's Cut is the long-lost version of the film we always wondered about and it was definitely worth Scream Factory's time to put it together, and for us to watch it. Once again, Scream Factory has given fans a fantastic release of a fantastic film.
The movie does start out pretty slow, but the acting is top notch and it delivers plenty of scares toward the end. Brad Dourif's role as the Gemini Killer is especially haunting. It starts off 15 years after the events of The Exorcist, with a very similar style, but takes the story of of demon possession into much deeper territory.
This may not be for everyone, but horror buffs and fans of the original may be surprised that this movie is so overlooked. Definitely the true sequel that I'd wish I'd seen earlier.