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The Exorcist III – Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III has had quite the cult surge over its lifetime since being released in 1990. Its largely gone from middling reviewed, forgotten about by modern audiences of the time film to being generally accepted as a bonafide horror classic and the best Exorcist sequel in present day. The film has been fully appreciated for more than just that one good jump scare hidden within it. Scream Factory surely knows this and is upgrading their boffo Collector’s Edition from a few years back to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray at the end of the month on March 28th. Included here are all the previous bells and whistles as well as the theatrical edition that features a 2022 4K scan of the original camera negative. You can order the film now so you can have it on or around the release date by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows this review.

Film

Originally published on 10/11/2016

For more than fifteen years Police Lieutenant Kinderman has been haunted by the death of his friend Father Damien Karras. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the exorcism that claimed the priest’s life, Kinderman’s world is once again shattered when a boy is found decapitated and savagely crucified. It’s just the beginning of a nightmare series of bizarre religious murders.  The brutal murders bear the hallmarks of the infamous Gemini Killer… who died in the electric chair fifteen years ago. But when a psychopath claiming to be the Gemini Killer reveals intimate, gruesome details that only the true killer could possibly know, Kinderman is confronted with a horrifying truth that he cannot begin to explain… and that will shake him to his core.  

Before this new director’s cut debuted on this release, I was already a big fan of The Exorcist III.  I really like the theatrical cut.  So it will only be gravy and preaching to the converted.  This third Exorcist film takes a the perfect angle to follow up the original film and feels like the perfect companion to it.  Yes, there was a forced exorcism due to a studio mandate, but to me I had always felt like that was supposed to be there…and yeah…the film has Exorcist in the title, so you kinda expect one.  Its a haunting venture in similar and unique ways to the original film that features some all-time great scares and performances for horror.

Aside from a brief return from Jason Miller, this whole cast is brand new with two characters returning played by new actors.  However, the writing, acting and chemistry is so strong between George C. Scott and Ed Flanders is so strong that you feel like you are truly watching the exact same characters and actors from the original film.  There’s a sense of familiarity from both the written and spoken word that feels as if we have picked up right where we left off at the end of the first film.  With the focus being these two, there is a sense of warmth and humor in their scenes that weren’t in the original film that this sorta has over it.  Scott goes a bit too big in some moments, but overall he’s quite compelling.

The best performance in the film and one that severely is hacked in the theatrical cut is Brad Dourif.  This may be his career best (At least Top 3).  He’s fully committed to his insanity, multiple personalities and being taken over and possessed.  In the Legion cut of the film, there is even more of him (No Jason Miller, even though his credit carries over because of the use of theatrical footage).  In that version, Dourif absolutely tears through and impresses with multiple monologues that feature a range of compassion, rage and utter insanity.  Had the original cut stuck, and this was probably never going to happen due to this being a genre sequel, he ABSOLUTELY should have been a lock for an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.  It also could have been a massive breakout role for him.  Now, you get to see what we missed in what was already an impressive and talked about (among horror fans) performance.

William Peter Blatty is no William Friedkin, but hell if he doesn’t have his own sense of style and flare.  The Exorcist is a freakin’ scary movie.  Every corner of this thing looms with a sense of fear.  Blatty brings a fearful sense of loneliness and haunts to every environment in this movie.  Especially that damn hospital.  A highlight also comes in the form of a dream sequence that randomly features Patrick Ewing, Samuel L. Jackson and Fabio (I’ll just mention Larry King has a cameo in this film as well).  The claim to fame on this movie also is that Blatty crafted one of the greatest jump scares in cinema history.  Its noted by artwork on the box, but that damn nurse with the surgical scissors gets me damn near every time.  And it was done au naturale too.  If there was one thing most horror fans could agree with on this film, its that moment right there.  But there are so many more moments that work as well.  This is a very scary movie that has a unique and adult feel to it.

The Exorcist III: Legion, as its called on this release, is an interesting venture to finally see this intended cut of Blatty’s film.  After seeing it, I’ll call it a draw between the versions as I said I was always a fan of the theatrical cut anyway.  The theatrical is a bit more popcorn friendly.  This Legion cut features a lot more personal and dramatic story.  There is a lot more dialogue and “talkie” scenes with a more personal, low key ending to the film.  And I’m not going to lie, I can totally understand and see where the studio suits were coming from in wanting something else from the finale of this film.  When I watched this cut, it ended and I was sort of like “Oh, that’s it”.  Not a bad thing, just being used to the big ending it previously had, this felt very minuscule in the most opposite direction there could be.  This cut is fine though, and highly enjoyable, especially if you’re a fan of the film who’s been seeking it for years.

William Peter Blatty’s directed sequel to The Exorcist is easily its best follow up and terrific horror film in it is own right.  A film that has aged very well and is one that is a constant source of reappraisal, yet it still feels so unseen and underground even though it has attachment to what is considered to be the greatest horror film ever made.  No, its not holding a candle to the original, but it doesn’t need to.  Its still heads and shoulders above other horror movies of that time and of the same subject matter.  Its a high recommend for me, and a film I always look forward to revisiting at this time of year.  I’ll take that forced exorcism any time of the year over James Earl Jones riding on the back of a fly any day.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are from the standard Blu-ray, not from the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: The Exorcist III arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a 2022 4K scan of the original camera negative. And wow, does it look gorgeous. The image has a rich look to it and its colors. I really wasn’t expecting it to look THIS good. There’s a good sharpness to it and the image carries a healthy layer of grain. There are some nice specks appearing in some areas if you’re paying attention. Depth is very strong and the fine details come through with excellent texture.

Depth:  Depth of field is very strong with lots of pushback and 3 dimensional zeal to the image. Scale is quite impressive here, especially in this claustrophobic story that expands in horrific, effective ways. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no issues coming from any sort of blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich, housing some wonderful natural levels. Texture, pattern and fine details have no problem showing through. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty lovely with reds and blues really popping through in a nice palette. Contrast really allows candle light, fire, lights, eyes and other things to glow right off the screen.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures appear clear as day and looking through a window-like in appearance from any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Theatrical Cut only), English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: For the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray of The Exorcist III, Scream Factory revisited the mix with a 2023 restoration of the stereo and 5.1 track. Overall this one is a noted improvement on the last one, though there are areas where I felt the vocals might have been a hair lower than ideal for the situation. Nonetheless, nothing a few notches up on the volume don’t improve. At the end of the day, its a well woven, playful mix that doesn’t go overboard and gives a terrific experience of the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer does some nice deep work with the score as well as glass shattering, crashing, and other attack emphasis.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s a nice playful nature in this mix that jumps are the room. There’s a nice accuracy and also liberty taken for fun to place some spook sounds or off setting ones in the room. Rear channels both make nice contributions and craft nice ambiance.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

The Exorcist III – Collector’s Edition comes with the 2-Blu-ray Discs.  The first disc contains the theatrical cut of the film and disc 2 houses the Director’s cut which is a composite of scenes from the theatrical cut and a VHS of dailies.

BLU-RAY DISC 1

Vintage Featurette (SD, 7:13) – Feels like a press kit making of featuring narration with on set footage with interviews from Blatty and Scott.

Photo Galleries

  • Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (HD, 3:37) 
  • Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (HD, 5:45) 
  • Still Gallery (HD, 4:07) 

Trailers (SD, 3:10) – Includes a teaser with “Legion” as the subtitle.

TV Spots (SD, 2:25) 

Deleted Scenes, Alternate Takes and Bloopers (SD/HD, 5:44) – A “Happy Birthday” singing to a kid with a creepy clown, an alternative scene for the confessional kill, some alternate angles on the big jump scare moment, and bloopers.

Deleted Prologue (HD, 2:44)

Vintage Interviews (SD/HD, 38:35) – Full interview segments from the Vintage Featurette that includes Blatty, George C Scott, Ed Flanders, Grand L Bush, Jason Miller producer James Robinson, Larry King and a few others.  Those are all standard definition, but there are stills and footage from the film thrown in that are in HD.

Radio Spots (HD, 3:48) – Looks like this is a new addition to the previous release.

BLU-RAY DISC 2

Audio Interview With Director/Writer William Peter Blatty – This plays over the film like a commentary, and it is full length.  Michael Felscher sits down with the author/director and goes over the production of the third film as well as covering the first film, books, faith and more with the topics.

Death, Be Not Proud: The Making of “The Exorcist III” – A 5-part making of documentary from Red Shirt pictures.  It starts with a kind of general retrospective (“Wonderfull” Time) and then leads on into more individualized and expansion interviews with different key people in the production.

  • A “Wonderfull” Time (HD, 24:30) – This is the full group of people, with production designers, producers, Brad Dourif and a couple other actors (Tracy Thorne, Clifford David).  They all discuss The Exorcist, their thoughts on The Heretic (Dourif’s blunt opinion is HILARIOUS) and their work on the film.
  • Signs of the Gemini (HD, 17:42) – One person interview with Brad Dourif on his role in the film.  He goes over a bit of his process as well. Dourif is true, honest and discusses Jason Miller, the reshoots and how he’s disappointed that the original cut of the film wasn’t the final one.
  • The Devil in the Details (HD, 18:03) – The production designers and those who helped bring the film’s look to life go over their experiences with their personal work on the film. Funny to find out at one time when some of them were brought on, the film was being called “The Exorcist: 15 Years Later”.  If only we could have had The Exorcist E20.  It also touches on some visual effects shots (Lady crawling on the ceiling), too.
  • Music For a Padded Cell (HD, 15:16) – An interview with the film’s composer Barry DeVorzon. He speaks of Blatty trying to give him the opportunity to score the original Exorcist but being shot down by Friedkin.  The composer takes a look back at the soundscapes he came up with for the film and also touches a little on the headbutting with Blatty and the studios and how it affected him.
  • All This Bleeding (HD, 28:49) – Everyone involved with the reshoots of the ending, including Jason Miller’s body double, the editor and second unit production tell the story of the studio demanding this change and what it was like to shoot it.  Unlike previously on this documentary, these guys are very positive about this portion of the film.

Summary

The Exorcist III is both a worthy sequel to a legendary film and a fine horror film all on its own. Scream Factory upgrades its previous version of the film with an outstanding new transfer and terrific 5.1 track to merit the purchase. The load of extras are all still here as well as the Legion cut of the film. This is a pretty easy upgrade for those of us who really do love this film and have championed it over the years.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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