By Nick Durham
It goes without saying that The Exorcist III is the best sequel in the franchise, mainly because it’s the only sequel in the franchise to have any kind of spirit that comes close to the original classic. This is mainly because the writer/director of the film is none other than Exorcist author William Peter Blatty. Even more interesting is the behind-the-scenes drama that occurred during the making of the film, with the studio forcing Blatty to alter a majority of the film in an effort to make it more commercial. Over the years many have desired to see Blatty’s original vision restored as much as possible, and this Blu-ray release from Scream Factory comes awfully close to doing just that.
The story of The Exorcist III revolves around police Lieutenant William Kinderman (now played by the legendary George C. Scott, replacing the late Lee J. Cobb from the original) seventeen years after the events of the first film. In the wake of the brutal murder of a young boy, Kinderman comes to learn that a supposed deceased serial killer known as The Gemini Killer may be responsible for this and subsequent brutal crimes. Kinderman’s investigation leads him to a mysterious patient that alternates looking like the actual Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif) and Kinderman’s old friend, the late Father Karras (Jason Miller).
It takes a while for The Exorcist III to kick into high gear, but when it does, it’s pretty damn scary. It’s scary not because of jump scares or cheap thrills, but because of atmosphere. Granted it doesn’t come anywhere near close to the lightning in a bottle perfection of the original film, but it comes pretty damn close for what it is, and that in itself is a major accomplishment. It’s even more of a major accomplishment given the fact that the film suffered from a ton of off camera drama involving Blatty and the studio. The film itself was originally titled Legion and studio 20th Century Fox forced Blatty to insert an exorcism scene into the film’s climax (which literally comes out of nowhere). This, along with other behind the scenes turmoil, is a major part of what makes the overall film feel uneven and even patch-worked. Despite that though, the film’s atmosphere and imagery are wonderful and even at times unforgettable. Oh, and Brad Dourif? He’s fucking amazing. Every time he’s on screen it’s a treat, and this may very well be his finest screen performance ever.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Exorcist III features a bevy of supplements. The first disc includes the theatrical version of the film, as well as a vintage featurette, trailers, photo gallery, outtakes, a deleted prologue, and old interviews with Blatty and more. The second disc of this set includes the director’s cut of the film, which features alternate footage and such that has been cobbled together from VHS sources. The quality of it all together isn’t that great to say it lightly, but having this version of the film here is a wonderful thing regardless. There’s also a more recent audio interview with Blatty, and even more interviews with Brad Dourif and others that worked on the film as well. It should also be noted that the audio and video presentation of the theatrical cut is by and far the finest the film has ever looked or sounded. This set is wonderful, and that’s saying it lightly.
As I said before, The Exorcist III is by far the best sequel in The Exorcist franchise, and honestly the only one that’s worth your time. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the film is one of the best releases they’ve unleashed thus far, and it definitely deserves to be in your collection. If you’ve never seen The Exorcist III, be aware that it doesn’t come close to holding a candle to the original film, but it is a very atmospheric and thought provoking film that manages to stand on its own despite its shortcomings. Pick this up.