Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'The Exorcist III' (1990)
Another movie so under appreciated, it's criminal
I recently read a review that stated The Exorcist III (X-3) is finally getting the appreciation it deserves. That's an understatement. X-3 was thrown into the category cult classic as the only people who saw it were hardcore fans of the original (X-1). These are the people who suffered through the absolute fucking travesty that was the second exorcist (X-2). They stuck by and believed in the franchise and forced friends to watch X-3 over the years. My introduction was the same. "HAVE YOU SEEN X-3?!?" "THERE'S A 3RD ONE?!?" We were actually screaming, no lie.
To be clear, X-2 is on the list of movies I will never review. That's right, I place it around the same level as Hellraiser: Inferno. A movie so bad, it's not even worth discussing.
But now that X-3 is creeping out of the shadows, I returned to it and watched it again, because it really does deserve recognition.
X-3 is by no means as good as X-1, but they nailed what was missing from the franchise that made X-1 so damn good. It was dark and gritty and fucking layers on the tension. The Exorcist was about peeling back the motives of Pazuzu. It was disturbing, alien, and flat out fucking evil. The second one was a fucking history lesson on exorcism and the mating habits of locust... (there, that's my fucking review of X-2). X-3 wasn't just about Pazuzu's absolutely disturbing ritual of terror, it was also about earthly evil and the ritual of a serial killer.
X-3 is about a man coming to terms with evil, not just being earthly but also esoteric. Our own George C. Scott plays a detective hunting a serial killer know as the Gemini Killer. One problem. The Gemini Killer was captured and executed over 15 years from the start of this movie. I can't really get into the brilliance of the plot without going into the spoilers, but the idea of a serial killer coming back from the grave is just plain brutal and the kind of evil the franchise was missing from X-2.
But apart from that, Scott's character, Dic. Kinderman, also has to deal with a feckless support squad, calloused medical staff, and a clergy that couldn't give less of a fuck about the soul of the city. The plot is filled with humans refusing to be helpful in any meaningful way. Without getting into the spoilers, if a character is portrayed as a genuinely good person, they are guaranteed to die during this movie. This movie flat out wants to punish you for hanging on to hope and rooting for the protagonists. And it does, over and over again, until an incredibly climatic ending
The acting blows anything you expect out of the water. It's every bit as good as the first. This movie's plot was the clear inspiration for The Taking of Deborah Logan and even Dexter's brother, from the acclaimed TV series Dexter. The practical FX were actually pretty solid using basically the same methods as X-1. Yeah, 70s FX during the 90s would seem antiquated, but it actually worked really well. They still work to this day. This movie, like X-1, is timeless.
This movie is a mandatory must watch for Horror Heads. It does not deserve to be a cult movie, it should have been award-winning. It's good. DAMN good. Good enough for all adult audiences.
SPOILERS!!! Like many of the movies on my 'must watch list' don't read any further until you've actually watched it. Then, if you care to, come back and compare notes.
I can't talk about this movie without also talking about the absolutely show-stopping performance by Jason Miller as Patient X, a.k.a. The Gemini Killer, a.k.a. Father Fucking Damien from the first movie. He splits his character not only as Father Damien, but also as The Gemini Killer, and finally, as the demon Pazuzu. That's right, he plays the very demon he defeated in the first fucking movie. Not to mention, he splits the Gemini Killer with none other than Brad Dourif.
Brad Dourif just fucking nailed it home. The Gemini Killer isn't just some murderer out to punish his father in effigy. He's a fucking artist. We was experimental during his time as a living serial killer, but never got to prefect his art. Pazuzu, looking for revenge, plucks the soul of the executed Gemini Killer and dumps it in the dead body of Father Damien, a.k.a. Patient X. The Gemini Killer basically becomes Pazuzu's special hitman, learning to posses other people, and using them to kill in Pazuzu's name. Unlike Pazuzu, he's not a real demon, just a really vicious and evil spirit. So he can't take over people easily. Instead, he picks on individuals with cognitive issues such as dementia and Alzheimers, those who have a hard time resisting him. He uses them like meat puppets, running down Pazuzu's hit list. In return, he gets to perfect his art as a serial killer
However, The Gemini Killer is just being used by Pazuzu, and once it get's its final showdown, it betrays him and takes over completely. My one problem is this movie is about the final showdown. There's this secondary story arc with a mysterious priest played by the venerable Nicol Williamson. But it's completely unconnected to the primary arc with Dic. Kinderman. I don't see why they couldn't have connected the two story arcs and made the final showdown with Pazuzu a little more seamless.
That being said, this movie was undeniably one of the best from the 90s and sits as #16 on my Top 20 horror list. If you're a horror fan, help lift X-3 from the cult list into the light where it belongs.