Thursday, November 11, 2010

Film Review: THE EXORCIST III: LEGION (1990, William Peter Blatty)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 110 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Jason Miller (actor in THE EXORCIST & RUDY, playwright), Ed Flanders (SALEM'S LOT, SPECIAL BULLETIN), Nicol Williamson (EXCALIBUR, RETURN TO OZ), Nancy Fish (KISS KISS BANG BANG, DEATH BECOMES HER), Grand L. Bush (DIE HARD, Balrog in STREET FIGHTER THE MOVIE, LETHAL WEAPON), Scott Wilson (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, THE WAY OF THE GUN, DEAD MAN WALKING). Cameos by Fabio, Patrick Ewing, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry King, C. Everett Koop.
Tag-line: "Do you dare walk these steps again?"
Best one-liner: "I still hear from her occasionally, screaming. I think the dead should shut up, unless there's something to say."

Way classier than any movie with the number '3' after it has any right to be, THE EXORCIST III: LEGION is an elegant character study and an unpretentious rumination on the nature of evil. EXORCIST novelist William Peter Blatty takes hold of the series' reins (after first offering them to John Carpenter!) and wisely proceeds as if part 2 had never happened. George C. Scott takes over as Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb's troubled cop from part 1) and plays him with case-hardened aplomb.

Every last detail of his performance is carefully fleshed out– his monologue on the carp in his bathtub; his weary manner of breathing when confronted with the supernatural; the way he lifts the corpse's sheet twice at every crime scene, then furtively looks at his hands to see if he's somehow sullied– the weight of it all plays effortlessly upon his face.

The bulk of the film takes place at a hospital, whose blue-lit, cavernous hallways and foreboding silences nearly transform the building itself into a character.

There's a visually impressive dream sequence with shades of Argento (and cameos by the likes of Patrick Ewing, Samuel L. Jackson, and Fabio!);

a terrific turn by Scott Wilson as a chain-smoking doctor; and a few genuinely FREAKY moments, the most notorious of which is a mini-masterpiece of pacing, tension, and (snip!) payoff.

Then there's Brad Dourif. As a mysterious patient in a secure, isolated ward, Dourif’s interpretation is breathtaking. The hair-raising scenes between Dourif and Scott play out like pieces of classical theater.

With each figure illuminated only by stark shafts of light, the two butt heads with great eloquence, spiral into the realm of the occult, and ultimately toe that fine line between lucidity and madness.

To see these two men (who are talented in such wildly disparate ways) square off against one another with such panache is an absolute treat. In all, it’s a significant work which transcends the schlocky origins of its ‘sequel status.’ Four and a half stars.

-Sean Gill

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