Exorcist III: Legion (1990) – Film

“Exorcist III: Legion”

Day 3 of the 2023 31-Days of Horror

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15 years have passed since the night of Regan MacNeil’s exorcism, the night both Father Merrin and Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller) died. Lt Kinderman (George C. Scott) is currently investigating a series of murders that exhibit all the hallmarks of a 17-year deceased serial killer. His investigation leads him to a psychiatric ward and Patient X, who arrived mysteriously 15 years ago.

This movie is based on a book written by William Peter Blatty, who also directed this, called Legion. Of course, the studio insisted it be part of the Exorcist franchise even though it didn’t have any exorcisms in it, so they added a one. Again, I chose to watch the theatrical release, not the director’s cut.

This being a first time watch, one of the things I noticed was the outstanding cast list. George C. Scott, who is typically hit or miss with me (especially a miss with his later stuff) as Lt Kinderman (good gravy, after 15 years he’s still a Lt?); Ed Flanders, is fantastic as Father Dryer, Kinderman’s closest friend and former colleague of Fr. Karras; Scott Wilson, as Dr. Temple, the neurotic psychiatric doctor (You had to wonder if the book placement in the scene in his office indicated recreational drug use. It probably did. The picture of The Hanged Man tarot card next to his portrait on the wall of his office was certainly foreshadowing.), and Nancy Fish, as Nurse Allerton, all made their characters believably human. But it’s Brad Dourif, as The Gemini Killer, who was absolutely brilliant. Seriously, that man can emote more convincingly that most other actors. Every time he was on screen I was completely enthralled by his performance, and I’d watch this movie again and again just for him.

The next thing I notice is the symbolism. This film is simply packed with symbolism. It’s so thick you almost drown trying to catch it all and can become distracted from the story by it. From the outline of an angel from flying helicopters over the water to the single rose, to the story about the carp in the bathtub, to the dream sequence, the symbolism, both visual and spoken, promised an intelligent story. And it would have been had certain entities *cough* *the studio* had not forced it into being an “Exorcist” movie.

This film begins, not with an exorcist, but with a sequence of Father Dryer walking through Georgetown and and stopping to look at the stairwell where Fr. Damian Karras died 15 years prior. Later, the audience learns that it is the anniversary of that death and Fr. Dryer and Lt. Kinderman honor that anniversary by going to see the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. But first, after the opening credits, we get a blatant supernatural disturbance at a church, then we are introduced to the first victim. Of course, a child.

About halfway through begin the conversations between Patient X and Lt. Kinderman. Dourif’s mad soliloquy, or monologue, whatever you want to call it, is horrifying and haunting, and the best parts of the film.

I thought the movie was decent. I realize that a lot of why I didn’t care for it more is simply because I don’t much care for George C. Scott by this point in his career, even more honestly and probably unfairly, I don’t care for his voice. I would seriously watch this repeatedly just to see Brad Dourif’s performance. Aside from that, this is the type of movie I’d need to “be in the mood” to watch and enjoy because of all the symbolism and subtext.

I chose to give this one 3 glasses of dark red wine.

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