ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 23, 1990
By Steve Newton
Seventeen years ago the highly original and ultra-shocking Exorcist had faint-hearted theatre-goers across North America passing out or racing down the aisles in terror. With the dull and nonsensical Exorcist III, you’re more likely to see folks nodding off or fleeing down the aisles in boredom.
Unlike the original, it ain’t no screamin’ hell.
Based on William Peter Blatty’s 1983 novel Legion, The Exorcist III stars George C. Scott as Lieutenant Kinderman (the late Lee J. Cobb’s peripheral character from The Exorcist). He’s a cop investigating a series of ritualistic murders in the Jesuit community of Georgetown. Scott spends most of his time peeking under morgue blankets and grimacing at the handiwork of the killer, whose modus operandi happens to be the same as that of the Gemini Killer, a nasty fellow put to death 12 years prior.
When he’s not uncovering bodies, Scott is shown talking to various nurses, doctors, and priests. And talking. And talking. A good chunk of The Exorcist III is taken up by a series of sit-down chats; close-ups of Scott’s ugly mug are the only half-frightening thing on the screen.
The action picks up a little when veteran psycho actor Brad Dourif (Child’s Play) turns up as the rejuvenated Gemini Killer. His evil soul was transplanted by Satan into the body of Father Karras (Jason Miller) when the latter killed himself after taking the demon of little Regan (Linda Blair) into his own body in The Exorcist.
Dourif’s depraved rantings are the highlight of The Exorcist III, which only delivers two or three serious scares in its entire 90 minutes. The film’s lacklustre characterizations never allow you to care whether so-and-so lives or dies—too much time is spent trying to unravel the unbelievable storyline.
Unlike the original Exorcist, which managed to keep disbelief at bay, this one invites heresy.