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THE EXORCIST III

As far as I’m concerned THE EXORCIST III ($20) is a much underrated and under appreciated horror movie that has been unfairly criticized, perhaps because of the stigma of the god awful second installment in the series. THE EXORCIST III is a very subtle and intelligent movie that contains very little overt horror; instead the film only implies a number of gruesome acts that are allowed to play out in the minds of the audience. Writer/director William Peter Blatty (author of the original novel and screenplay) has based the script for THE EXORCIST III upon his novel LEGION, which picks up the story fifteen years after the events depicted in the original.

George C. Scott takes over the role of William Kinderman (played by Lee J. Cobb in the first film), the Georgetown police detective assigned to investigate the mysterious deaths that occurred during the ordeal depicted in THE EXORCIST. THE EXORCIST III opens with Kinderman investigating a string of murders similar to those attributed to The Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif), a maniac who was executed fifteen years earlier. While copycat killings are not unheard of, these murders are identical down to a level of detail that was only know to The Gemini Killer and the handful of investigators assigned to solve the crimes. Kinderman’s investigation eventually takes him to a Georgetown hospital, where he finds an amnesiac psychiatric patient (Jason Miller) who claims to be The Gemini Killer. When Kinderman goes to see the unknown patient, who has just awoken after spending the last fifteen years in a coma, he discovers a man that looks exactly like Father Damien Karras.

Of course, Kinderman knows that the patient couldn’t be Father Karras, since the priest died fifteen years ago, after participating in an exorcism ritual. Despite looking like Karras, the unknown patient has the memories and personality of The Gemini Killer. Is the psychiatric patient merely insane, or has The Gemini Killer been granted demonic help in order to begin a new reign of terror? THE EXORCIST III is a character driven film, with very strong performances by George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Jason Miller and Ed Flanders. The conviction that these very fine actors bring to their roles makes THE EXORCIST III a one-of-a-kind of excursion into horror. Director William Peter Blatty has a great visual style, completely unexpected for someone who has spent most of his career putting ink to paper. Somehow, Blatty’s roots in writing have enabled him to infuse the film’s imagery with some of the symbolism one would normally find in a book. It is indeed a very intriguing effect. The cast of THE EXORCIST III also features Nicol Williamson, Harry Carey Jr., Viveca Lindfors, George DiCenzo, Nancy Fish, Scott Wilson, Don Gordon, Zohra Lampert, Ken Lerner, Patrick Ewing, Fabio and Samuel L. Jackson. Keep an ear out for the voice of Colleen Dewhurst, who chimes in with an uncredited vocal cameo.

Warner Home Video has made THE EXORCIST III available on DVD in a very nice wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. THE EXORCIST III is framed at 1.85:1 and the transfer looks quite good. In places, the image on the 1990 release is a tad softer looking than a new movie. However, for the most part the image is pretty sharp and offers a relatively good level of detail, including in the darker scenes. Colors are rendered with a realistic level of saturation and the flesh tones appear natural. There are no problems with either chroma noise or bleeding. Blacks are well recreated and the contrast is relatively smooth, including in a couple of harshly lit sequences. There are no problems with digital compression artifacts on this DVD.

The film’s original Dolby Surround soundtrack has been upgraded to a 5.1 channel mix, but doesn’t provide any perceivable changes to the original sound design. There is relatively little by way of actually directional effects contained in the sound mix; instead, the sound is highly atmospheric and creepy. The surround channels are used infrequently, but when they come into play, they are effective. There is a purposeful distortion in the sound design, which also utilized, to a smaller extent, for the voice of the demon. Other voices are nicely recorded and cleanly reproduced. The track has a strong bass element, but it is used primarily to enhance the distortion contained in the film’s sound design. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD.

The interactive menus contain a bit of sound, but are otherwise quite basic. Through the menus on can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

As I stated above, THE EXORCIST III is an intelligent and under appreciated horror movie worthy of more attention than it has ever received. Warner Home Video has done quite a nice job with their bargain priced DVD. Horror fans interested in something more than mindless mayhem will definitely enjoy this film. Recommended.

 
THE EXORCIST III 



ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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