streaming horror the exorcist 3

Welcome to 31 Days of Streaming Horror. Every day this October we’ll be highlighting a different streaming horror movie to help you get into the Halloween spirit. Today’s entry: The Exorcist III (1990).

The Exorcist III
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Sub-Genre: Horror sequel whose very existence makes you think, “Wow, I bet that’s bad!”, but is, in fact, great

Best Setting to Watch It In: While tumbling down a steep set of steps in Georgetown

How Scary Is It?: This film features the absolute best jump-scare of all time; it’s also pretty damn disturbing from beginning to end

I know what you’re thinking. “The Exorcist III?! Why would you include that on this list, and not The Exorcist?” Two reasons. One: when I set out to write this on-going feature, I wanted to avoid predictable, familiar horror titles, and focus on films that are slightly more obscure. Two: The Exorcist III is a legitimately great movie. You may not believe me. You may think that The Exorcist didn’t even need a part 2, let alone a part 3. And you may have seen the absolute mess that is The Exorcist II: The Heretic, and thus had no desire to keep on going with this series. But I assure you: The Exorcist III is worth your time.

It’s a very different movie than the first film, and yet it exists firmly within the same world. It helps that William Peter Blatty, who wrote the original Exorcist novel, came on board to write and direct this film (which was adapted from his novel Legion). Blatty wasn’t as great a director as Exorcist filmmaker William Friedkin, but he had a great mastery of style – he was fond of moody, shadowy atmosphere inspired by film noir and German expressionism. He also knew how to craft one hell of a jump-scare. Jump-scares get a bad wrap, and usually, they are indeed the cheapest element of horror. But every now and then, a genuinely brilliant jump-scare shows up in a film. Exorcist III boasts the best of the best, involving an uncomfortably long stationary shot pointed down a long hallway. The scene goes on, and on, and on, with nothing scary actually happening for a long time. Yet the entire time Blatty lets the shot linger, we know something’s coming. And even with this knowledge at hand, when the scare does arrive, it still knocks you on your ass. I’ve seen Exorcist III dozens of times, and yet the jump-scare gets me every time.

Exorcist III follows grumpy cop William F. Kinderman. Kinderman had a minor role in the first Exorcist, where he was played by Lee J. Cobb. Here, he’s played by George C. Scott at his grumbly best. Kinderman was only partially involved with the events of the first film, and yet they still haunt him. Specifically the death of Damien Karras (Jason Miller), one of the priests who performed the exorcism in the first film, and who threw himself out a window and down a huge flight of stairs after being possessed himself.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, and the killer’s M.O. is identical to that of the infamous Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif, aka the voice of Chucky). But here’s the thing: the Gemini is dead, having been executed seventeen years ago. A series of events leads Kinderman to a hospital, where, to his horror, he discovers a patient in a psychiatric ward who looks a hell of a lot like the late Damien Karras. It turns out the dead Gemini has possessed the dead Karras’ body, and Blatty highlights this by swapping Miller and Dourif in and out of scenes where the character is having conversations with Kinderman. Blatty didn’t originally shoot things this way – he had Dourif and Dourif alone handle the role and added Miller in during reshoots. This was ultimately the right move, as the cutting between Miller and Dourif does a wonderful job highlighting the possession, contrasting the calm Karras persona with the manic Gemini. Dourif flourishes here, screaming and howling during long monologues that might be dull in another actor’s hands.

Through it all, the Gemini keeps jumping into other bodies to commit more and more grisly murders, and Kinderman has to figure out a way to stop it while also saving Karras’ soul. This entire scenario could’ve backfired terribly, yet Blatty pulls it off, resulting in a sequel that’s almost as good as the original film.

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