The Exorcist III (1990): Some of That Old Time Religion

Hello folks. It’s Monday and only a week from today the Halloween Top 13: The Sequel will be beginning. That’s why I’m taking this time to remind you all that I’m still looking for people to send in lists of their favorite sequels. I would really like to have one for each day, so I hope that if you’ve thought about participating, but haven’t yet, that you consider making a list. So what do you need to do? List as many, or as few, of your favorite sequels, feel free to expound on them if you’d like, and send them off to before Sunday, October 18th. I hope you all decide to participate, and I look forward to seeing what sequels you folks love.

Now onto the task at hand. Since I wanted to remind everyone that the sequels were coming, I thought I would take a look at a sequel that I’d never seen. Everyone knows William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, and many people have sat through John Boorman’s laughable sequel, The Exorcist II: The Heretic. So when 1990 rolled around and another sequel was released, this time helmed by Exorcist author William Peter Blatty, there was plenty of skepticism. Blatty had not even intended for his movie to be a sequel to Friedkin’s film (partially because the brand had gotten so trashed with part two). The script he brought to the studio was an adaptation of his 1983 novel Legion. A story with some connection to his previous demonic tale, but it could stand on its own. The studio seemed interested, but after filming was completed they made Blatty do re-shoots to further connect the film to the 1975 original.

Blatty’s script, like the novel, find’s its main character in Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott), a police detective who was once a friend of Father Karras, the priest that committed suicide to kill the demon in the original Exorcist film.. As the film opens, Kinderman has plans to attend a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life with another former friend of Karras, Father Dyer (Ed Flanders), but the detective’s mind is on his own troubles. The night before a young man was killed in a style reminiscent of The Gemini Killer, a serial murderer executed some fifteen years previous. The killings continue as a priest is killed, and then Father Dyer meets the same fate. Kinderman finally gets a clue in the form of a man who has been kept in confinement in a hospital for fifteen years. The man bears a striking resemblance to Father Karras, but also to the long dead killer. He claims to be the source of the murders, but it seems impossible to Kinderman that a man locked away could commit such crimes. The Lieutenant will soon learn that the culprit of the crimes is more than a mere man, and the case of young Regan MacNeil holds the clues to unravel the mystery.

I watched this film not expecting very much, but I do love me some George C. Scott. I mean no one, NO ONE, can yell at people like Mr. Scott. There’s something about how gruff and aggressive his tone can become that has made films like Hardcore, The Bank Shot, and his version of The Christmas Carol classics in my mind. George C. did not disappoint in Exorcist III at all. Not only does he get to yell at quite a few folks, he also gets some genuinely funny lines. That’s right there’s humor in this film, and not the unintentional kind that made Exorcist II: The Heretic an absolute mess. Lt. Kinderman has that balance of gruff old coot and gentle soul that Scott excelled at capturing on film. I really doubt that any other actor could have made the role as touching and humorous while still remaining a badass.

The most fascinating role in the film has to be Patient X/The Gemini Killer. This role was dramatically changed from the original script as the producers felt there should be an appearance by one of the cast of the original film. Jason Miller, who played Father Karras, returns as Patient X who claims to be The Gemini Killer, and that is how he is billed in the credits. Meanwhile, Brad Dorif is credited as The Gemini Killer, and the look of the hospitalized crazy drifts back and forth between these two men. While this was at the behest of the producers, I think it works great in this flick. It gives the mystery man more of a schizophrenic look, and once you learn the truth of his character, it makes perfect sense in the frame of the film. There’s also one classic part where Dorif is playing the part. When he’s asked how he escapes to do the killings he replies, “It’s child’s play.”, and the scene shifts to show a red headed child. As Dorif provided the voice of Chucky, the murderous doll with the carrot top in Child's Play, I found this quite funny.

Exorcist III also provides a fair amount of cool cameo appearances too. While Larry King and C. Everett Koop can be glimpsed briefly in one scene, the really cool cameos come by way of Kinderman’s dream sequence. Scott’s character dreams of Limbo, a train depot populated by the dead and angels assigning passage for them. Fabio, yes, that Fabio, can be seen as the camera pans by him in all his blonde glory making the sequence all the more surreal, but it doesn’t end there. You get Sam Jackson for a moment, but he’s hard to spot even though he had a line. It threw me off completely because his dialog was looped in post-production by another actor. Yet the best cameo, at least my favorite, comes from The Hoya Destroya Patrick Ewing. The NY Knick center was once the star player at Georgetown University, where the film was set, and his simple brief depiction as the Angel of Death made me stop and think about how creepy he really looked. Plus what other center could block your shot and send you off to meet your maker, not many. Also those with a sharp eye (like my lovely wife) might recognize the altar boy at the beginning of the film. It's a blink and you miss him moment, but this film was the third role for Kevin Corrigan who would go on to co-star in the TV show Grounded For Life as well as film roles in Steal This Movie, The Departed, and Pineapple Express.

While Scott, Miller, Dorif, and the cameos did much to keep the film brimming with surprises, it really didn’t need much help. Exorcist III is chock full of a lot of genuinely eerie shots, and at least one jump scare that almost got me, a hardened horror fan, to jump out of my seat. Gerry Fisher, who had also handled the cinematography of Blatty’s first film, The Ninth Configuration, did an excellent job swinging the film from oppressive supernatural tones to the lighter, more humorous moments. The climatic moments of the film are a coupe de gras with the camera telling as much of the story as the actors. The score by Barry De Vorzon pulls from Steve Boeddeker’s 1973 work for the original film, but not to the point of imitation. De Vorzon, who had previously worked on Night of the Creeps and The Ninth Configuration, did with his score what the whole film aims to do, take a cue from the original and then expand upon the idea.

To sum this film up, I have to say that I have no idea why films with a religious horror theme work for me. As a devout atheist you would think that I would discount devils and demons and intervening priests as wholesale nonsense, but when these events occur in the film world, I roll with it. If I can accept my screen being filled with zombies, vampires, werewolves, and the like, then there is surely room for a few demons in there as well. So I love The Exorcist, and to a lesser degree, I loved this film as well. I’m glad I have this one a chance as it gave me a new part of the Exorcist saga to actually enjoy (don’t get me started on Dominion or The Beginning). So if you’re looking for a good sequel, this is one to catch. Don’t expect it to live up to the original’s standards, but take it as an extension of the story, another tale from that cinematic world. And if I can’t get to you to watch this flick, maybe the power of Christ can compel you. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Bugg Rating

This trailer contains footage that was cut from Blatty's final film. It contains part of the intended climax as The Gemini Killer's head morphs.

I found a clip which contains my favorite little moment in the film. It may not seem like much out of context, but it actually built the tension so well that it made me jump. Check it out.


  1. It's good to see someone give this very unrated sequel it's due. Blatty did quite a very good job in directing this from his official sequel novel. And I'd agree with you that the inclusion of Jason Miller at the behest of the producers works great for this film. I'm with the author, though, with the producers insistence of adding the Father Morning (Nicol Williamson) character for the showdown exorcism finale. I don't think it helps the splendid atmosphere built up in the movie (IIRC, the novel's end didn't have or need it - it's been awhile since I've read it and I should take it in, again).

    The cast for this was simply wonderful. George C. Scott replacing the late Lee J. Cobb was a brilliant move and great addition to the movie. And having Ed Flanders, Scott Wilson, George DiCenzo, who were also in the very unrated The Ninth Configuration, do work here was both clever (that novel is Blatty's unofficial sequel to The Exorcist) and worth it. The cameos were an equally great touch, along with the atmospheric soundtrack and foley work. And that Nurse Station sequence is one of my all-time favorites! I saw this film in the theaters on its first run (I have a penchant to catching these little appreciated gems along with the handful of other patrons) and it GOT EVERYBODY there! There weren't many of us there, but everyone jumped. Such a fantastic scene (and that build up should be studied by all who want to work movies).

    Thanks very much for this review.

  2. BTW, I'm not a fan of the studios sequel, THE HERETIC - which I also did see on its first run. I even saw its re-edited version (put out after the lambasting by critics and fans, and failure at the box office). IMO, I'm sure it's one of the things Richard Burton wishes he hadn't made (maybe even director John Boorman feels the same) in the latter part of his film career. And it's this picture that I push those who enjoyed THE EXORCIST to see. Thanks, again.

  3. I saw this a the theater when it came out. Not that bad at all. Anyway, I am able to check ut your site and comment freely now as I am using a paid service that gets arond blocked sites in China. Hope it stays this way indefinitely. Will lurk around here. You're a prolific blogger. Everytime I come here a couple new posts. excellent.

    Bill @ The Uranium Cafe

  4. I couldnt agree more with you and Leopard, this is a fantastic sequel and is so commonly overlooked. The scene with the nurse may be one of the single most startling and effective sequences I have ever seen in my years of Horror fandom. Great review here Bugg!

  5. I think THE EXORCIST III:LEGION might just be the scariest movie of all time.

    Yeah, I said it. It's flawed, no doubt about it (mainly due to that studio interference you mentioned), but I love it just as much as the original and it definitely ranks among my Top Five Favorite Horror Films.



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