Halloween recommendations: The Exorcist 3

Halloween is only a week away now. And while you could just watch the same old horror movies you always watch, we've got some more unusual ideas...

Exorcist 3

In the late 1980s William Peter Blatty finally came up with the long-requested sequel to The Exorcist. Legion was a taut supernatural thriller featuring several characters from the original book, including the popular Detective William Kinderman, the wise-cracking, philosophising detective thought by many to be the template for Columbo.Legion follows a bizarre series of grisly and idiosyncratic murders that seem to bear the hallmark of the Scorpio serial killer. Trouble is, the Scorpio was executed years earlier. Kinderman is a dirty cop (his wife has had a gefilte fish in the bath for three days)on the scent of something big, but little suspects that his investigation will lead him back to the horror of Regan MacNeill’s possession in the early 1970s…

Blatty was a respected humorist (writer of the original Clouseau vehicle A Shot In The Dark)and screenwriter before turning his hand to the most respected horror novel of all time, and the rich vein of humour throughout both Legion and its Blatty-directed screen adaptation Exorcist 3 both counterpoints the gruesome and chilling murders depicted and also softens the viewer up considerably for the next shock.

The most infamous shock in Exorcist 3 is ‘the corridor shot’, a static telephoto view of a nurse going through the routine drudgeries of her night shift. She flirts with a guard, fills in forms, checks out a strange noise that turns out to be nothing… it just goes on and on, with no cuts.

Then, suddenly, the camera zooms in on something utterly horrific that we might hardly have noticed, and the audience jumps right out of its seat (I saw Exorcist 3 at the cinema and can confirm this). It’s the kind of cheap, manipulative scare that John Carpenter loves, but frankly Carpenter never did it this well.

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Later on Big Shock #2 comes along, in the form of ‘The Shears Shot’, as Kinderman’s daughter is attacked by a possessed woman armed with the lethal implement pathologists use to remove heads in one clip. This particular shot would be meaningless in this CGI age, but it is hard to see how it was done at the time, and it routinely has viewers diving behind their hands.

Other noteworthy things in Exorcist 3 include: a bizarre dream sequence that veers between tragedy, horror and comedy as Kinderman predicts the murder of someone close to him and walks round an enormous hospital ward populated by angels, monsters and the dead victims of the Scorpio killer; a rich and typically committed performance from (psycho)character-actor Brad Dourif as The Scorpio Killer; and one of the least-expected role-reprisals from the original movie.

So forget the abysmal Exorcist 2: The Heretic (Richard Burton drank his way through it, and there is perhaps no other way to endure the final result); forget the two contrasting but equally dull prequels (both starring the excellent Stellan Skarsgard and both wasting him) and check out instead the only true sequel to The Exorcist, which has the courage to break from the original in tone and substance without sacrificing chills.

Keep checking back over the next week for more Halloween recommendations…