Beezlebub is back, but without much fanfare: no green vomit, no twisty heads, no Linda Blair. (An Exorcist movie without Linda Blair? Sacrilege!) There’s something just as scary, though: George C. Scott popping his eyes and grimacing into the camera as if someone had put a gun to his head and said, ”Overact, or else!” If Part II sequels are generally disappointing, Part IIIs are often much, much worse. It can seem as if nothing is going on in them except dim murmurings about the original movie — murmurings that mostly remind you of what isn’t being delivered.
The Exorcist III is an ash-gray disaster. William Peter Blatty, who wrote the original novel, was allowed to write and direct this concluding installment, an adaptation of his 1983 novel, Legion. Essentially, what he has come up with is a solemnly inept police thriller encrusted with Catholic-satanic gibberish.
Scott plays a detective investigating a series of grisly murders in Georgetown. He discovers that the demonic spirit of an executed serial killer (Brad Dourif) has inhabited the body of Father Karras (Jason Miller), the one who died tumbling down the stairs at the end of the first Exorcist. Dourif makes a funny, slavering maniac, but Blatty, trying to counteract the campy Karma of John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic, withholds anything that might give an audience pleasure. The Exorcist III has the feel of a nightmare catechism lesson, or a horror movie made by a depressed monk. F