Monday, September 24, 2007

The Exorcist 3

The original Exorcist is enshrined in film history as being one of the all-time greatest, perhaps the very greatest, horror films. Its inevitable sequel, with Linda Blair reprising her role from the original film, was unseen by me but which was fairly universally panned. Expectations were rather mixed, then, for this third film, with the Exorcist’s original screenwriter, William Peter Blatty, signing on to write and direct the film a good seventeen years after the first, and a good ten years after the Ninth Configuration, his largely unseen previous directorial work. So how does it largely hold itself up? Well, if it can be considered a given from the start that it wasn’t going to match up to the original, then we can at least take comfort in the fact that it is still quite good.

The film deftly sidesteps the problem of how to deal with a sequel that nobody liked by simply pretending it never happened, and instead having the third film spin directly out of the events that the first one ended with. Set fifteen years later, with George C. Scott playing a world-weary detective investigating a new series of brutal murders that seem to have been committed by the same serial killer as a number that had been done back around the time of the original exorcism. The film mostly plays as a detective story, with Blatty preferring to keep things fairly low key throughout the film until the obligatory fire and brimstone climax, with only the occasional outburst from the man famous for chewing the scenery and everything else he could get his hands on as Patton.

The plot mostly works, though it does get a bit convoluted thanks to studio demanded rewrites designed to include a few roles for returning cast members from the original. Despite that occasional wonkiness, the film is quite effective, held together by Scott’s great performance. The other cast members, while not at his level, do their jobs well, and the film manages to evoke a nice grim mood all the way through. While not up to the level of the original, it wouldn’t fare too poorly as half of a double bill. Now I’m just really curious to see Blatty’s lost original cut of the film, before the studio demanded all the changes.

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