Originally Posted by JA Fant
I have always enjoyed The Exorcist III (saw it in the theaters wayyy back).
Additionally, I like Dominion as well. Wether or not it was preconceived from the very beginning, it has been of interest (to me) to learn about the impetus of evil from this story.
I too saw Exorcist III in theaters in 1990; I actually didn't appreciate it too much back then, but like all would-be rabid fans of this "true" sequel to the first film's story, I eventually became smitten with it on home video variants. I also read the book it was based on, William Peter Blatty's (who wrote the screenplay and directed the film) LEGION, and the film was supposed to actually be called LEGION until Warner Brothers and Morgan Creek executives insisted it stay in line with the other "Exorcist" franchise titles, so the name was changed as a follow-up to John Boorman's awful Exorcist II: The Heretic (on the all-time official worst films ever made list next to stinkers like Grease 2). I always thought Exorcist III was a highly underrated crime thriller/demonic possession yarn, and always agreed that it is the true follow-up to William Friedkin's first film. Further, when Blatty first showed the screening version of his completed LEGION film to Warner Brothers executives, it did not include the exorcism sequence involving Jason Miller at the very end -- Blatty was actually going for a whodunit-type cop story involving Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb in the first film; George C. Scott in Exorcist III -- which made NO sense because Kinderman looks younger with more hair in Exorcist III than Cobb did in the role in 1973's The Exorcist!) following leads of murders in the style of the deceased Gemini Killer. Studio execs couldn't stand the fact that there was no exorcism sequence in an Exorcist film, so they demanded he go back and re-film the ending including something to do with the Father Karras character, supposedly still alive and possessed by Pazuzu, the Iraqi demon which possessed Linda Blair's character in the original film. However, there are so many inconsistencies about this; we're lead to believe that this isn't really Pazuzu but the devil himself based on the back-and-forth conversations Kinderman has with the "Gemini Killer" personality in Exorcist III, and it all gets really hokey after awhile...who Kinderman is actually seeing in that cell, why we see the transformation between the Gemini (Brad Douriff) and an older, weathered Karras (Jason Miller) et al...the theory is, according to diehard fans, that this demon that jumped into Karras at the end of the first film, and which he tried to rid himself of by throwing himself out of Reagan's bedroom window, actually kept his brain cells alive after the jump and "allowed" him to crawl out of his own coffin after the funeral for the priest, eventually making his way to the Georgetown hospital where he was taken into the disturbed ward. The demon -- or devil -- also fused Karras' body and mind with that of the deceased Gemini killer, whom it also "woke up" and then the demon begins possessing random people to continuing killing for him, all the while leaving Karras' body in the isolation cell in the hospital. Finally -- and quite confusingly -- a character known as "Father Mourning" (also tacked on at the end of Exorcist III per Blatty's instructions to continue an exorcism theme) learns about Karras' possession and tracks the demon down to the cell Karras is in, eventually confronting him for the exorcism. Much of this is VERY hokey and simply too ridiculous to follow logically; but again, this was at the demand of the studio who told Blatty to add that sequence at the end or walk. Still, it was cool to see Miller possessed with the glowing green/yellow eyes, seething like Linda Blair did in the first film and barking threats at Father Mourning and eventually Kinderman; I didn't quite buy that this was the same demon inside of Blair's Reagan character, but it was effective.
That brings me to the franchise's prequels -- apparently, Warner Brothers and Morgan Creek commissioned a prequel project to be filmed, exploring the origins of Father Merrin and his first contact with the demon that possesses Blair (named Pazuzu)...but this was utterly unnecessary in my opinion because it was already touched on in Exorcist II, as awful as that film was. In Exorcist II, we see a younger Merrin (played by Max Von Sydow once more, made to look much younger which was effective and believable) in Africa where he first encounters the evil spirit in a boy, and then the film falls apart into Richard Burton's priest character trying to find a witch doctor who knows how to stop Pazuzu...or something. At any rate, we get the backstory there about Merrin's brush with evil and why he acts the way he does when the Pazuzu statue is unearthed in the beginning of the first film. Paul Schraeder was commissioned to make the prequel, called DOMINION (which you know) but the result, in Warner Brothers' eyes, was a complete mess and utter failure; after the film was authorized to be released on DVD years after the second prequel by Renny Harlin was made and I was able to see it, I have to agree with them...the film plods along and has absolutely no life, centering on a quasi-paralyzed kid in Africa where a young Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) encounters the evil that "surrounds" him...I couldn't stand the film, but I do own it on DVD as to complete the series. After Warner rejected Schraeder's version, Renny Harlin stepped in to make another one, this time called Exorcist: The Beginning, and he took some of what Schraeder already filmed (including using Skarsgard again as Merrin) and added incredibly cheesy CGI gore sequences and an over-the-top exorcism sequence that felt almost completely ripped off from Friedkin's first. Still, in the end, I liked The Beginning much better than Dominion, and watch it quite often. I don't know if I care for Skarsgard as a younger Merrin, as you can totally see and feel where Harlin ripped off so many elements of the character from Von Sydow's original performance (the "will is weak" line about drinking, the sitting in an Egyptian "bar" watching men stamp steel etc.) but it was better in my opinion than the unwatchable Dominion.