15 years after Regan MacNeil spewed forth her pea-green soup, cop George C. Scott is dragged into an ungodly maelstrom at the local psychiatric ward when a series of ritualistic murders rocks Washington. Largely replacing outright gore with implied terror, the film plunders Brad Douriff's possessed mind to powerful and disturbing effect.
Scott replaces the original film's Lee J Cobb as Lieutenant Kinderman, investigating a couple of gruesome murders that chillingly mirror those committed by the Gemini Killer, 15 years ago. He has a nightmare in which Father Dyer (Ed Flanders) - who had been part of the original exorcism - is murdered. When Kinderman goes to visit him in hospital, he finds the priest dead and drained of blood.
Kinderman reckons deranged patient, Mrs Clelia (Mary Jackson) is involved, but then he meets Patient X (Jason Miller), an amnesiac inmate of 15 years, now claiming to be the Gemini Killer. Kinderman is astonished by the man's resemblance to Father Karras (Miller again), the priest who had plunged to his death during Regan MacNeil's exorcism all those years ago. In a blood-curdling episode, Patient X transmogrifies into Father Karras, the real Gemini Killer (Brad Douriff) and his Satanic possessor.
It's time to call in the ghost busters once more, this time in the shape of bible thumping Father Morning (Nicol Williamson), to kick Beelzebub's butt. But not before he and Kinderman suffer appalling psychological and physical torture at the hands of Old Nick.
The Exorcist (I) had been based on William Peter Blatty's hugely successful novel, but the author had nothing to do with the first sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic. This was Blatty's intended follow-up (based on his book Legion), and having learned the directing trade with his imaginative The Ninth Configuration (1980), he was ready to helm The Exorcist III.
As Alexander Walker mentioned, Blatty, "stubbornly resists the debased conventions of schlock horror and relies on...intelligent gravitas." The Daily Mail suggested that, "We've seen it all before, more or less, but seldom with such style. If you want your flesh to creep without feeling that you are co-operating in a sadistic freak-show, Exorcist III is worth seeing."
As The Daily Telegraph was quick to point out, though, "The script is also surprisingly funny - suggesting that even if the Devil does not have all the good tunes, he knows a few decent jokes." None better, perhaps, than casting Patrick Ewing as the Angel of Death.