Monday, June 21, 2010

The Exorcist III: AKA The Exorcist II

Hopefully by now we've all agreed as a group that the Exorcist II was just an April's Fools Day joke that got way out of hand. The Exorcist III however is a startling, sensational bit of horror and I was pleased as punch that I had selected it on this hot and humid day. Written and directed by William Peter Blatty the writer of the novels, the Exorcist III takes place some 15 years after the events in the first film. George C. Scott revitalizes the role of Lieutenant William Kinderman as he investigates a series of supernaturally occurring murders. There are snakes, some lightning, freaking crazy old people walking on the ceiling---it's all kinds of exquisite fun, but more importantly it's just a pretty damn good movie. Surprised?

I will preface this review by saying, don't you love it when George C. Scott just yells at people? It's great. Thankfully most of his characters throughout his life called for screaming in one way or another, otherwise we would have been really bored. The best though is when he screams so loudly and so powerfully that he cries immediately afterwards.
I bet it was real crying, I really do.

Okay moving on. The Exorcist III is great for several reasons. To begin with- it's really part crime drama part horror movie. We have all these murders, all these wonderfully creepy murders and there's just no clear cut explanation. They are each so subtle in their creepiness that it becomes almost suffocating once we get the full effect. The murder in the confessional comes to mind---that voice and no face to put with it? And what it says? It's in fact very telling of the movie as a whole. We have all these murders, these gruesome murders and yet we never see them- we see only the crime scene.

The fear is found other places.

Another standout piece of the film is the dialogue. The lines in this movie were quite astounding. Hilarious at times, horrifying at the next? What more could we really ask for? My favorite is Kinderman's conversation with the old lady who needs her radio fixed. Pretty brilliant.

Mrs. Clelia: My radio. Aren't you going to fix it? Nothing ever gets fixed round here. Just a whole bunch of pies and anchovies. Go away. I don't ever talk to strangers.
Dt. Kinderman: I'm the radio repairman, Mrs Clelia.
Mrs. Clelia: Well then, fix it.
Dt. Kinderman: What's wrong with it?
Mrs. Clelia: Dead people talking. It's right here. Do you see it? (holds out invisible radio)
Dt. Kinderman: Yes. I see it.
Mrs. Clelia: I just knew you weren't really a radio repairman. That's a telephone I'm holding.

And then there's the ultimate in scare moments, when the nurse gets spooked late at night after hearing noises. This scene so perfectly sets up what a jump scene is suppose to do. It shows us the false alarm which prepares us in a way, but then it completely throws conventions on it's head by sending out that killer a little earlier than we ever expected.
The music isn't even on a jump scare level and yet we still jump a bit when watching this scene. Similarly scary although not under the same category as a jump, is when that crazy old lady just randomly starts crawling on the ceiling and no one sees her. If you thought Regan's spider-walk down the stairs was terrifying, take a gander at this scene. The words unnatural and creepy barely start to explain it.

But aside from the horror we find that there is a staggering amount of fantastic imagery and great scenes that further our imaginations into this nightmare of a world. Kinderman's dream sequence was one of those rare instances that causes you to pinch yourself to make sure it was real.

Was this really happening? The transition into the dream sequence is pretty non-existent which makes it all the more preposterous. But a good preposterous mind you. Yes, this may very well be the best dream sequence that ever existed. From the strangely menacing angels, to the wacky old lady band, to the people who were decapitated and now have staples in their necks. Oh, and let us not forget Fabio,

Samuel L. Jackson

and Patrick Ewing.

I told you it was a crazy dream. And the best part is---it was OBVIOUSLY a dream if Fabio was there. It just cracks me up because in a real dream the most random celebrities are usually making cameos, and here we have them making a cameo in a random dream. It's probably the most accurate dream sequence that actually felt like a dream. Ever.

Sure for a good portion of the film I was a bit confused. Tell me again how Father Damien Karras is in an isolation cell in the psych ward? Oh that's not Father Karras it's Brad Dourif.
But wait Father Karras was still a little alive, and the demon swooped into Brad Dourif AND Father Karras body at the same time? That makes no sense. But you know something? It doesn't really matter because it's a movie about a demon. A few things I absolutely adored involving possession was the revelation of how the murders were pulled off. What a brilliant concept! And that last-ish scene of the murderer in the cab and arriving at the house, was so anxiety provoking and stressful. Sure it's not on par with the level of possession or the sheer amount of terror found in The Exorcist, but it was a very subtle way to show that Pazuzu still has his wits about him.

Overall, The Exorcist III is in my opinion a gem. A big one. The imagery, the symbolism, the foreshadowing within those symbols---the creepiness of Brad Dourif and all those different voices. So many things surprised me about this film, and had me loving each and every minute of it.

The final scene and exorcism was thrilling in some ways, especially the very end of it. Once again we find ourselves central to the ultimate battle between good and evil and although nothing will ever compare to The Exorcist, the Exorcist III is a very worthy sequel. Sure it became a little silly at times, snakes and fire everywhere,
lightning cracking holes in the floor
and bringing up the dead?
Yeah it was definitely a bit silly. But It boldly went to a place that was different from the original film, yet still held onto enough of the original. Although, apparently the scenes that do indicate a connection to the original film were added in as Blatty never really intended for Legion to be a sequel.

But still. A perfect example of subtle hints from our favorite demon film are those familiar noises that we once heard in the attic. We hear them now vaguely in the confessional booth and behind hospital doors. Truth be told, I never gave those noises much thought when I first heard them before and to be honest I probably just thought it really was a rat. But if you listen closely you'll notice that it's a sound unlike any you've heard. There's almost a faint flapping of wings and some kind of strange noise...reminiscent to Gollum's weird talking/cough in The Lord of the Rings. It's curious and it's a perfect example of how things really start to mess with you in these films. It's not long before we start imagining what exactly that noise is made from and that's when things get really terrifying.

So I am officially pronouncing my new love for The Exorcist III. Please see it if you have not and see it again if you have. I guarantee you'll be surprised.


Corey said...

i *heart* EXORCIST III.

as i recall, i think the logic went something like this... jumping out the window, the exorcism shenanigans and the last rites pushed the demon out of father karras. as the demon was leaving though, he crammed the spirit of the gemini killer (recently executed) into karras' damaged body, leaving the spirits of karras and the gemini in it. it took the gemini killer 15 years to reconstitute karras' almost-dead brain back to a workable state.

or something like that. i dunno. it had old ladies crawling on the ceiling AND Fabio, and that's just awesome, so maybe we'll just leave it at that.

Sean Springett said...

I Loved Exorcist III. It's by far one of my all time favorite films ever made.

lazlo azavaar said...

Agreed! One of my favorite horror films. It's a totally underrated movie. The sequence with the shrouded attacker is one of the longest set-ups for a jump scare that fakes you out with a false jump early on (the patient in the room with the glass), then hits you hard when you've relaxed a little.

matango said...

I love the scene with the nurse. I remember being terrified of it when I was a kid.

Andre said...

You are RIGHT Corey that is how the logic went, but I guess I blocked it out in favor of Fabio's shining face!

I suppose it kind of makes sense if you think about it for at least a good solid 20 minutes. Although I'm curious if the seeming lapse in logic or forced explanation has to do with how Blatty never intended it to be a sequel. They had to fit Damien Karras in there somewhere. I believe the book just concerns the Gemini killer. And now that I think about it, I must read those books!

The Vicar of VHS said...

I'm glad to see love for this one! Over the years I've watched it a lot more than the original Exorcist. I recognize that the first one is great and more important, but I just *enjoy* this one more.

That hallway scare has been talked about again and again, and deservedly so. It took me 3 viewings before I realized that the nurse actually hears a noise from the room where the figure will emerge, then goes INTO the room, finds nothing, comes back out nonchalantly, LOCKS THE DOOR BEHIND HER, and then turns away and BAM! That realization made the scare even scarier than it had been before.

And enough cannot be said about Brad Dourif in this movie. He scared the crap out of me LITERALLY with both hands tied behind his back! Think about it--it's just him sitting there, bound, talking...and yet he's easily one of the top 5 scariest villains I've ever seen in any movie EVER. Robbed of the supporting actor Oscar nod, imo.

And the easy comeraderie between George C. Scott and Ed Flanders as Father Dyer, exemplified in their early scenes at the movie--that wonderful speech from Scott about the carp...just brilliant stuff.

I, also, ♥ EXORCIST III. :)

Cousin Barnabas said...

Yeah, this movie is a classic. Not only is the dialogue terrific, but the performances are great, too.

I always thought The Exorcist III would make a great stage play because the best moments in both the movie and novel are about how the characters interact.

Art Almquist said...

I'm so glad to see the all this love for this great film - which I had the rare treat to see in the theatres on its release. I was (and am) sad that the studio forced Blatty to call it "Exorcist III" as opposed to "Legion," or "The Exorcist: Legion." I recall reading an interview with Blatty where he shared his disappointment upon hearing that the film wasn't doing well on its release - all because of "Exorcist II." Man, those studio execs who think they know everything ...

I just love this movie, and have shared it with many friends over the years. Man, the dialogue - along with the radio scene, the "carp" speech is just pure joy. Ditto the lemon drops. Ditto the Macbeth speech. It just goes on and on.

I also love the final exorcism. I know it wasn't what Blatty originally intended, and many fans think it's out of tone with the rest of the film. For me, though, I cannot imagine the film without Kinderman's "unbelief" speech. It's absolutely the perfect way for Kinderman to respond to that question. I also love the ray of light appearing through the window and finding Father Morning's hand. Beautiful.

My only problem is that the film never explains how Father Morning comes to be at the hospital and Patient X's cell. The timing and editing of his arrival are very dramatic (love the sound of the door closing), but in his previous scene his crucifix falls off the wall and bleeds, and in his next ... he is just there. I'm surprised that Blatty didn't clean that up with a short scene of some kind.

But MAN, that's one small piece and I hate to put a nitpick on such a wonderful, otherwise perfect and truly underrated film, so forget I said anything. Thanks to you, Andre, and everyone else here for sharing the love! I hope that Blatty knows that his film has serious love out there!

p.s. Andre, I couldn't find this review in your alphabetical list and only located it with a search of the site. My eyes may just suck, but just in case, you might give it a look so more people find out about it!

Andre Dumas said...

Indeed, so much love Art! Thanks for the heads up! I end up adding all the reviews to the list manually and every now and then I discover ones I forgotten. I'm so sad that THIS was one of them! Gah!

The French Waffle said...

This movie will always have a special place in my heart. In hindsight perhaps it was foolish to watch it at night, alone, with a windstorm going on outside. Overall the crime drama feel to the movie was effective and utterly enthralling. However, after I finished the movie brushed my teeth and crawled into bed and fallen asleep my roommates returned from their video gamers club but that was not what woke me up. No. One of my roommates, for whatever reason, decided to start playing with scissors at the ungodly hour of 3am. Needless to say in my tossing and turning the sound of scissors woke me up with a start and a scream, startling her so she accidentally threw the scissors in my direction.

Anonymous said...

Exorcist 3-Legion is based on the novel Legion. The novel is more interesting. What separates this novel and movie from most other novels and movies is that it asks the hard questions such as: would an all good God create death? Not only is there alot of human evil in the world but theres also alot of cruelty from Nature with its diseases violence centipedes snakes sharks etc. The movie and the novel probe the question of evil and suffering in the world and asks what kind of God allows rampant evil suffering and death. The novel ends on a more optimistic note while the movie ends more pessimistically. I dont know if George C.Scotts character is an atheist or agnostic or an apostate but he seems to believe there is no loving God with all the horrors going on before him. There may be an all good loving God but if there is then He cannot be in control of whats going on in the world. The movie and the novel doesnt understand this. The Devil and the demonic are illustrated in both movie and novel but not enough so to give us an understanding of the origin of evil and suffering. Its a good attempt at exploring the issues of evil and suffering.