After a week of watching ‘The Exorcist’ and its two sequels I have come to appreciate my own restraint. I cannot tell you how many times I have held the heavily reduced ‘Anthology’ box set thinking how bad the other movies can be. Well, believe me; just stick with the first movie.
The third film is the true sequel to the first movie, as it is written and directed by Blatty, follows on from the end of the first movie; sensibly ignoring the diabolical ‘Exorcist 2’. It is set about 15 or so years after the first movie, where the demon, after leaving Regan appears to have jumped hosts from body to body possessing and forcing them to perform a variety of grisly murders. After a recent spate of murders follows the mo of the now deceased ‘Gemini killer’, the police are forced into the world of the occult as the sole perpetrator is locked up inside a mental hospital.
The plot is immediately better than the second movie, and I got to say, to begin with the pace moved swiftly and the story seemed quite intriguing. The acting isn’t bad, and it was a nice touch to see some of the cast from the original movie make an appearance, this at least established the movie as more than just a spin off. As the movie was written by a novelist rather than a screen writer some other technical aspects of the movie, however, seem a little skewed. The locations, back stories and character development is of a reasonable standard where as the dialog does seem a little clunky and the conversations forced. At first this is forgivable but eventually, I’m sad to say, begins to become a little irritating.
It is not just with the dialogue that this becomes problematic. The plot begins well, but as the story progresses, and eventually introduces the demon, the consistency begins to waver. Much of the plot begins to get a little confusing, some things get explained but others don’t, and far too much of the story relies of large quantities of explanatory dialogue which just kills the pace.
As with the second movie, my biggest bugbear with the Exorcist sequels is the lack of exorcising which actually occurs. Obviously the first movie was pretty much based around the possession, and the terrifying set pieces shown where the priests battled with the evil were intrinsic to its success. Now imagine the first movie without those scenes, and the boring result pretty much sums up the sequels. In all fairness the third movie holds it together well; especially when you consider that until the last 10 minutes of the movie nothing particularly scary happens, but still it does leave you a little unsatisfied despite some interesting content.
The third movie also suffers from the test of time. Now in the 1970s they had no choice but to use prosthetics and the result was quite unsettling; and hideously real. In the 90s certain effects were used in copious amounts, namely ridiculously blue lightning effect, which at the time I’m sure looked quite impressive; now however, it looks quite fake. There is some gore also, which was a welcome addition, but sadly it looks pretty fake and detracts from the realistic edge the movie needs to be successful.
Overall this movie is definitely the better of the sequels but still I find it difficult to recommend. It is not a patch on the first movie, not necessarily because of story or acting, but simply that it is in no way scary. It’s not that its sequences fall flat, but simply because there generally is not enough of them to keep an atmosphere. Watch only out of curiosity but I would say with some conviction, one watch is all you will give it.