Exorcist III is now officially old as hell. The sleeper sequel was released on August 17, 1990 making today it’s 30th birthday. While THE EXORCIST franchise has had very high highs and very low lows, the third entry is widely considered the best film sequel in the series. While completely ignoring the universally panned EXORCIST 2: THE HERETIC, the third film Police Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott who replaced Lee J. Cobb from the first EXORCIST film who passed away in 1976) notices similarities between his current murder investigation and the methods used by the “Gemini” killer (Brad Dourif) who was executed 15 years before. He soon discovers a hospitalized mental patient (Jason Miller) claiming to be the dead serial killer, but who looks uncannily like a priest Kinderman knew who died during an exorcism. As more bodies are found, Kinderman looks for connections between the two supposedly dead men.
When THE EXORCIST III was released in 1990, 17 years after the original megahit, audience expectations were moderate, mostly due to the cold reception of the previous sequel. The film was directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel and script for the original Exorcist, as well as this installment. Blatty’s lone previous job as a director was on the EXORCIST semi-spinoff, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION. In THE EXORCIST III he gave us a stylish horror-thriller that’s effectively disturbing and action packed in the most 90’s way. While the film posts one of the widely praised, and often imitated, jumpscares in horror history it was be an insult to ignore the rest of the film. While the first EXORCIST dealt with themes of faith and internal struggle, the third film explores how evil is manifested in our everyday lives in grotesquely insidious fashion.
THE EXORCIST III released to mixed reviews and a respectable box office take of just a little over $39 million dollars. In the years since, the film has been positively reappraised by critics and audiences resulting in the directors cut, THE EXORCIST III: Legion being released in 2016. It’s now considered by fans as, not only the best sequel, but a horror masterpiece in its own right. Can’t say the same for THE EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING. Or DOMINION: THE PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST. Or EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC. Oh well.