First off, I can’t believe this film is already 25 years old. I can remember sitting in class, and talking about this movie in front of everyone in my film appreciation study in college. Even revisiting this classic 25 years later it still holds up, and holds tremendously.
The film takes place 20 years after the original. Father Karras has been dead since that night of the exorcism, jumping out the window and plummeting to his death down that long stairwell. Lieutenant Kinderman and Father Dyer have bonded over his death and become close friends.
Strange murders begin happening, all with the same MO as a the Gemini Killer, who was executed 20 years earlier. As Kinderman researches the murders things start pointing toward a patient in the mental ward at a hospital, a patient who resembles Kinderman’s friend Father Karras. It comes to light that the Devil didn’t allow Karras to die 20 years ago and can still utilize him to torture and kill the living.
I am not one to like supernatural/possession films. They are all the same to me, well besides the original Exorcist; and even it didn’t really scare me. Exorcist 3 was one of those exceptions that scared the shit out of me. I thought The Exorcist was an amazing film, but it didn’t scare me; frightened a little yes, but scare me? No.
The film is based on the book LEGION by William Peter Blatty and was also adapted for the screen and directed by him. Now there are certain things within the film that certainly made it creepier for me, things that most people wouldn’t get from watching it the first time. Blatty sneaks in metaphorical imagery into almost every scene, from roses sitting in the background, to statues with their heads cut off, to a normal conversation in the hospital hallway that, if you’re paying attention, will lead you down the story’s road ahead of Kinderman. The creepiest thing for me about the film (and I still get goosebumps when I see it) is during the opening title scene, after the Church doors burst open and we are in first person view walking down the street; very subtly, off in the distance, you’ll see a priest run across the street from left to right. Then he will run down the sidewalk on the right hand side, and then cross the street from right to left to exactly where the Kintry kid is standing, before the camera tumbles down the stairs. I don’t know why it has the effect on me the way it does, it just does.
Another moment that is brilliant is the death of Nurse Keating. It’s not because it’s creepy, or gross, but because how Blatty set up the scene. Keeping the camera stationary as we watch the nurse move around the hospital, having a policeman sitting on a bench keeping the audience safe (nothings going to happen to her if the policeman is there, right?). The scene is superbly orchestrated so that when the reassurance of the policeman is gone, there is no time for the anxiety to build up, you are still relaxed as the screech on the soundtrack is heard and the quick zoom into her demise, it’s just brilliant.
I couldn’t talk about this amazing film without talking about Brad Dourif as The Gemini Killer. Yes, George C. Scott is tremendous, but it’s George C. Scott! But this is when I was introduced to the work of Brad Dourif, an amazing actor who is by far one of the best actors working today (and back then). The intensity of the energy he put into the role was astonishing. How he just owned one monologue after another, his intensity shifting with the passion of what he is talking about and reacting to Kinderman’s actions. Pure brilliance. If you are an actor or an aspiring actor, you need to check out Dourif’s performance here. Even if you do not like this film you would be crazy or just a plan hater to say that Dourif’s performance isn’t downright spectacular. I had the pleasure of meeting Dourif shortly after watching the film, and just to meet him I was honestly frightened; because that character had been etched so vividly inside my head, I couldn’t separate the two. This was the only time this has ever happened to me meeting an actor.
A lot of people will argue the fact that throwing the exorcism in the end of the film felt pushed and unnatural; that’s because it was. In the book, Legion, there is no exorcism. The movie was originally going to be titled Legion, with no reference to The Exorcist at all, but of course the studio (Morgan Creek) forced Blatty to add an exorcism scene so they could tack on The Exorcist name; this was all against Blatty’s will.
Regardless, even with the exorcism added the film works extremely well. Even in the final scene there is a lot of great visuals that give you the creeps, and watching Jason Miller come to life as Patient X is wonderful as well.
If you haven’t seen this film WATCH IT. If you haven’t seen it in awhile WATCH IT again. It’s truly a wonderful film, it’s a wonderfull film in fact!
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