Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Sequels are the bread and butter of successful horror films and often the bane of horror fans. More times than not a sequel is nothing more than a cash in, a retread, or a dud. Sometimes it's not a dud, but gets such a strong negative reaction before it even hits theaters or DVD that it bombs and gets a bad reputation. You can't blame horror fans who groan at news of another chapter for their favorite horror film when we get more Texas Chainsaw Massacre; The New Generation, Jaws The Revenge, Friday The 13th Jason Takes Manhattan than we do Aliens, Evil Dead 2; Dead By Dawn, or Dawn of the Dead.
Last month The Exorcist turned 40. Both Rue Morgue and Fangoria have excellent celebratory issues on the stands right now. The Exorcist has to be the scariest movie of all time. The only other film I can think of that made me cringe and fill me such a sense of dread and left me not wanting to rewatch it (at least for a very long time) was Henry; Portrait of a Serial Killer. Even Henry falls short of The Exorcists ability to create a true horror experience with shocks that haven't dulled over the decades.
Like all successful horror films The Exorcist has some sequels. There's even talk of a Exorcist TV series and let's all go ahead and cross our fingers now that this never gets off the ground. The first sequel, The Heretic (1977), directed by John Boorman, is widely considered by fans to be an
abomination. I remember someone going on a lengthy rant about what a piece of shit it was when I worked at Garage Video in Allston MA. Exorcist III is completely different animal though.
1990's The Exorcist III is based on the William Peter Blatty's real sequel, Legion (1983), to his original novel and was directed by Blatty himself.  Taking place years after the original film, we follow Detective Kinderman
(George C Scott) as he investigates a series of murders that closely resemble the murders of The Gemini Killer, a serial killer believed to be dead. The investigation leads Kinderman to a mental hospital where he meets a man known as only as Patient X (or Sunshine in the novel). I don't want to give away any plot details, but I will say there are direct connections with the first novel/film and presented in a way that feels nothing like a cash in on the originals' successes.
Blatty is a powerful storyteller. Both The Exorcist and Legion are scary as hell reads and the films are
worthy adaptations (which goes without saying in The Exorcist's case). III is an overlooked gem, which considering the colossal disappointment of Heretic, is understandable. The scares are very effective, the dread is palpable, the imagery is frightening and the villain (Brad Dourif) is intense. I've watched III probably half a dozen times at least and there's one scene that still makes me jump-I know it's coming, in fact I knew it was coming the first time I saw the film, Blatty really telegraphed the scare with the shot he used, but dammit if I'm not "Ah!" everytime.
The Exorcist III is not a perfect film, but it is a hell of a thriller/horror film and a worthy follow up to one of the best horror films ever made.

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