Mon, 27 September 2010
I consider this the only true sequel to the first masterpiece. Exorcist ends with Father Dyer looking down the formidable flight of stairs (the same stairs that took his best friend Father Karras’ life – he even reads him his Last rites). The beginning of Exorcist III begins in Georgetown in 1990 with Father Dyer looking down those same stairs 15 years later to the day (probably after midnight).
The eery opening of the movie, filled with imagery of creepy Christ statues, fog and rushing wind, encapulates the tone for the rest of the movie. There is something ominous lurking in the darkness. The beginning viewpoint of the camera is set through the eyes of the killer, slowly creeping through the muggy streets to the first victim of the movie – a black boy holding a rose. The next morning, we see Det. Bill Kinderman (a very loud George C. Scott) hovering over the body of the dead boy with the boy’s mother sobbing to the side. The victim is later identified as Thomas Kintry, who belonged to the Police Boys club.
Later on, during a lunch with his best friend Father Dyer, Kinderman describes what happened to the young boy:
"The killer drove an ingot into each of his eyes, then cut off his head…in place of his head was the head from a statue of Christ all done up in blackface, like a minstrel show, you know, the eyes and mouth painted white. …The boy had been crucified on a pair of rowing oars."
Kinderman is a run-down, hardened detective who has seen his share of vice and murder, and he is no stranger to death and despair of the city. A seasoned cop who has already accepted that “the world is a homicide victim,” these recent murders (and their extremely violent nature) jolt and remind him of the heinous nature in which he lost his best friend Father Karras. In the beginning of the film, we see him at his desk holding up a picture of him and Father Karras. They were the best of friends, but their friendship ended abruptly when Karras jumped out of Regan’s window and fell down the flight of stairs. He is now best friends with Father Dyer, most likely because they were both very close to Father Karras and have bonded through their strife.
The next victim is a Father Kanavan, who thinks he is absolving an old lady of her sins (whose voice is very reminiscent of Mercedes McCambridge!) but what she says in the confessional booth is not the run of the mill sin-talk.
Old Lady: “I have a…a scrupulous conscience, Father, this need to confess so many things. If I step on two straws in the shape of a cross, I feel that I have to confess it. It torments me."
Father Kanavan is then viciously murdered in his own confessional booth.
The 3rd victim hits Kinderman close to home: his own buddy Father Dyer is murdered while lying in his hospital bed (he was there for some health tests I believe). Dyer is decapitated, and his entire blood supply is in several jars next to his bed, although some blood was used to write a little message above his bed.
Later on in the movie, Kinderman figures out that the murders are all interconnected. He first picks up on the killer’s modus operandi of which he is very familiar with – the Gemini Killings that took place in 1974 (not to be confused with the real life Zodiac Killer). The calling cards from the Gemini Killings are very close to the murders here: all the victims' names (first, middle or last) begin with the letter ‘K.’ Also, the killer cuts off the index finger of the right hand and carves the sign of the Gemini in the left palm. Twenty-one year old James Venamun (Brad Dourif) was put to death in the electric chair for these crimes, so this baffles the detective. Are these copy cat killings? Or has the killer come back from the dead?
Kinderman also figures out that the 3 victims all have the Regan MacNeil exorcism in common.
Thomas Kintry (the first victim) was the son of Mrs. Kintry who was sent a tape by Damien Karras that had the voice of a possessed Regan on it. She was the linguists expert that figured out the language was in fact English in reverse.
Father Kanavan is the one who gave Father Karras permission to investigate the MacNeil case in the first place, and Father Dyer is of course the one who mentioned Father Karras to Chris MacNeil at the party and probably the one that nudged her to seek him out for help with Regan.
Kinderman is then led by a soppy Dr. Temple who leads him to the "disturbed" wing of Georgetown General Hospital. Residing there in the dark, musty room is a Patient X who insists that he is the Gemini Killer. When Detective Kinderman meets the man in room, he cannot believe his eyes. Before him sits Father Karras, his best friend, a man he regards as a saint. Even though Karras has been ‘dead’ for 15 years, it is his body that sits before him; only it is James Venamun’s voice that comes out of Karras’ mouth.
Venamun tell Det. Kinderman that when his soul was slipping out of his body in the electric chair, Father Karras was supposively dying on the base of the infamous flight of stairs. ‘The Master,’ in an effort to wage revenge on all those involved in exorcising the demons out of Regan’s body, slips Venamun’s soul into Karras as his was slipping out. He was then picked up wondering the C&O Canal by authorities, and was stowed away in the Georgetown General Hospital disturbed ward for 15 years, of which he was catatonic with little activity. Only recently, he has awaken and carrying out ‘The Masters’ plan of revenge by possessing catatonics in order to continue the Gemini Killer’s dirty work.
"Oh, yes, their names began with a ‘K.’ That little modicum at least I was able to insist upon. … “I was obliged to settle the score on behalf of…well…a friend."
Venamun kills the Kintry boy, Father Kanavan, and Father Joseph K. Dyer in order to get in good with his ‘friend on the other side,’ in order to given a break when he is finally delivered in hell after his duties are carried through.
Because Det. Kinderman refuses to tell the press that Venamun is in fact the Gemini Killer, Venamun keeps punishing Kinderman by killing more and more in an effort to prove to him that he is in fact the Gemini. He is thrown ‘a bone’ from the master and is given a victim that is not connected with the Regan exorcism – nurse Amy Keating. Her murder is perhaps one of the most startling I’ve ever seen - the way that Blatty builds the tension is unparalleled.
Kinderman is still as staunch as ever and will not tell the press that Venamun is the Gemini Killer, and so he goes after Kinderman’s daughter by possessing a catatonic to go to his house, posing as a nurse. Kinderman arrives just in time to save her.
Meanwhile, a Father Morning (who has previously performed exorcisms in the Phillippines) comes to Venamun’s room and begins to try and rid Karras of the demons that possess him. He is somewhat unsuccessful at the time. Kinderman comes back to Venamun’s room after saving his daughter and has a showdown with Venamun/demons. He gives an ‘I believe’ speech that rivals any horror movie soliloquy to date:
Venamun: “Have I helped your unbelief?”