Saturday, December 29, 2007

“The Exorcist lll”

Director: William Peter Blatty 1990
I know you’re thinking I’ve lost my mind writing about a sequel few remember, but this is a genuinely scary movie with at least two classic “gotcha” moments. It’s also a theological thriller that considers ideas of faith and good and evil, while creating several memorable characters and scenes.
Here’s some background: in 1983, Blatty published a novel called “Legion” (taken from Mark 5:9: “Jesus asked the man his name, and he answered, ‘Legion, for we are many.’”). The main character is D.C. Police Lieutenant William Kinderman, the cop who investigated the strange events in the original “Exorcist” (Lee J. Cobb played him in the first movie). This time he’s faced with ritual murders performed in the style of an executed serial killer. Events eventually lead back to Damien Karras, the Jesuit who died at the end of the first book. But did he?
In 1990, Blatty got the chance to direct an adaptation of “Legion” He did a terrific job. It’s a great looking film with an excellent cast. George C. Scott took over the role of Kinderman, and while there are several typical over-the-top Scott moments, he’s good as a conflicted man. Ed Flanders is his best friend, a Jesuit named Dyer. Brad Dourif plays . . . well, watch for yourself. There’s another prominent actor who shall remain nameless here.
The movie is deliberately paced, its mood ominous throughout. There are some missteps. A troubled psychiatrist (Scott Wilson) is never fully explained, and the final ten minutes or so are fairly incomprehensible, the result of studio meddling which, among other things, led to the introduction of yet another Jesuit exorcist (Nicol Williamson). It’s a shame, because Blatty was trying for something different and was unable to fully realize his vision.
Look, I know that “The Exorcist” and “Legion” and the movies they inspired are commercial endeavors. Nobody will ever confuse Blatty with John Updike. Some may view the theological references pretentious in such projects with a clear eye on the cash register. But at least questions are raised. How often do thrillers—either on the page or screen-- try that these days?
While I said at the top that few remember this movie, there are enough fans to support some websites. And a book on what went on behind the scenes is due in 2008. It’s become a cult movie.
Maybe it’s my sixteen years of Catholic education, the last four with Jesuits, but I think you should give” Exorcist lll” a try. Watch it with the lights low and a glass of good (non-sacrificial) wine.


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