‘The Exorcist III’ Slays in 4K [Review]

The Exorcist III
The Exorcist III

It seems a thankless task to produce the follow-up to a bonafide horror classic, let alone a second sequel. The Exorcist (1973) remains now (and likely forever) in the upper echelon of genre movies, but everyone knows Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) is widely considered one of Hollywood’s great turkeys. Despite this, series creator William Peter Blatty wanted one more trip to the well to right his ship and deliver something worthy of its namesake. Using his 1983 novel, Legion, as the basis for The Exorcist III, Blatty wanted Friedkin back in the director’s chair for a story that ignores the events of the last film and (nearly) didn’t have an exorcism in the film or title.

The troubled history of Blatty’s vision has been known for some time, and a full recollection of that struggle can be found on this disc’s bonus features. But I would argue this is one instance where the oft-dreaded “studio interference” was actually a good thing. The middle ground between what Blatty wanted and what the studio insisted wound up producing one of the (now) most lauded sequels in horror, and it is unquestionably the best follow-up in the series.

Set 15 years after the events of the first film, The Exorcist III picks up with Lt. Bill Kinderman (George C. Scott filling in for the late Lee J. Cobb) investigating a string of murders with an MO eerily similar to that of the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif), a serial killer long since executed for his crimes. In his sleuthing Kinderman arrives at the office of Dr. Temple (Scott Wilson), head of a psychiatric ward, and is introduced to Patient X, who claims to be the Gemini Killer.

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However, he appears in the body of Father Karras (Jason Miller), assumed dead the past 15 years after his fall down some infamous steps. Despite being locked up (and historically dead) the Gemini killings continue, though strangely the fingerprints found at each crime scene are different. Kinderman is desperate to find a link between Patient X and the mounting murders. His journey leads to an answer only the supernatural can provide.

There is much to appreciate about Blatty’s The Exorcist III but one aspect stands out above all else: pacing. Despite the subject matter, this is not a slasher film, and it isn’t filled with gore either—although visceral moments are in no short supply. Blatty builds tension through slow tracking shots, locked-off cameras, low angles, and austere trappings. It’s all complemented by Barry De Vorzon’s moody low-frequency score. The pace is practically hypnotic so that when something shocking does happen—like that jump scare—pulses will immediately spike.

Recasting roles is a tricky task but it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking over Lee J. Cobb’s role of Lt. Kinderman with more aplomb and scene-chewing panache than George C. Scott. Cobb plays the part with dogged determination, allowing his constant curiosity to push him toward unconventional answers.

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But, importantly, Cobb’s version of the character is a calm man. Scott, by comparison, is an explosive device with a hair trigger. He’s a damn fine actor, too. There is a moment when he discovers the body of a friend and his face expresses a range of emotions as he processes the event. But then, later, when questioning someone he erupts with lines like, “It is NOT in the file! It is NOT!” And later, during the exorcism, the man is frothing at the mouth with fury. Scott is in nearly every scene and the film is his to carry, which he does with ease.

Two versions of The Exorcist III are included in this release: the theatrical cut (in 4K) and an approximation of Blatty’s original version (Blu-ray only). The latter is worth watching as a curiosity but as I mentioned in the intro the studio took away control of the picture and ordered reshoots, including bringing in the Father Morning (Nicol Williamson) character and delivering more of a traditional exorcism during the finale. This is one instance where I won’t decry Scream Factory supplying only the theatrical version in 4K.

Speaking of which, the big question those of you who own the previous collector’s edition are wondering is whether or not this release is worth upgrading. And my answer (as it usually is) is yes.

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Scream Factory is touting a new (from 2022) 4K restoration from the original camera negative, with Dolby Vision/HDR color grading. The 1.85:1 2160p picture is always going to look a bit thick and grainy, that’s just the nature of the film stock used, but there are many instances here where the increased resolution yields new details in skin, clothing, and environmental textures. There is little damage remaining on the print. This is not a colorful film but those sporadic pops of bright hues are nicely saturated. No additional work was done for the director’s cut, which remains half good and half rough.

Additional restoration work was also done on the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround soundtracks. Now, what that additional work was done will remain a mystery to me because these tracks sounded just as good to my ears as they did on the last release. That isn’t to say these aren’t an improvement, and I’d imagine levels are a bit higher and sound effects and the score have been polished as well, but only the most hardcore of audiophiles may notice variances. The soundtrack is fantastic, with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells brought back alongside Barry De Vorzon’s excellent synth score and some classical music tracks. It’s a tragedy there has never been an official release. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut 4K Ultra HD

This disc contains no extra features.

DISC TWO: Theatrical Cut Blu-ray

“Vintage Featurette” (SD, 7:13) – This is a standard studio EPK, providing a good overview of the film along with some b-roll footage.

There are three photo galleries: “Behind-the-Scenes” (HD, 3:37), “Posters & Lobby Cards” (HD, 5:44), and “Still Gallery” (HD, 4:07).

Three theatrical trailers (well, two trailers and one teaser; HD, 4:55) and six TV spots (HD, 2:25) can also be found here.

“Deleted Scene, Alternate Takes & Bloopers” (HD, 5:45) has three cut scenes and a short reel of bloopers. The film’s deleted black-and-white prologue (HD, 2:44) is an interesting watch, too.

Several vintage interviews (HD, 38:35) with the principal cast & some crew are also included.

DISC THREE: Legion Director’s Cut Blu-ray

There is an audio interview with writer/director William Peter Blatty, conducted by Michael Felsher, which has been edited and laid over the film, acting as a quasi-commentary.

The full-length documentary “Death, Be Not Proud: The Making of The Exorcist III” (104:20, HD) is presented in five parts:

“A “Wonderful” Time” (24:30) – A handful of the film’s actors and crew sit down to discuss the impact of the first film, how much they hated the second, and how the third came together. Dourif makes mention of how Scott could be intimidating on set because he was known for doing one take and nailing it.

“Signs of the Gemini” (17:42) – Brad Dourif is the focus here, as he discusses the turmoil on set, having to essentially re-do his entire performance and greatly preferring the way he acted the first time around. It’s both informative and bittersweet.

“The Devil in the Details” (18:03) – The film’s production design team is interviewed, touching upon all that fun stuff production designers are responsible for on a set.

“Music for a Padded Cell” (15:16) – Composer Barry De Vorzon talks about crafting the score for this highly anticipated horror sequel.

“All This Bleeding” (28:49) – Here’s the best of the new feature lot, with heavy discussion concerning the studio-ordered reshoots, the additional gore scenes, Miller’s uncredited stunt double and many more interesting tidbits.

Special Features:


  • NEW restoration of the original stereo and 5.1 tracks (2023)
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature


  • NEW restoration of the original stereo and 5.1 tracks (2023)
  • Deleted Scene/Alternate Takes/Bloopers
  • Deleted Prologue
  • Vintage interviews (featuring behind-the-scenes footage) with writer/director William Peter Blatty, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders and more…
  • Vintage Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots
  • Photo Galleries
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature


  • William Peter Blatty’s director’s cut – LEGION, assembled from the interpositive and select scenes from the VHS dallies, approved by William Peter Blatty
  • Audio interview with director/writer William Peter Blatty
  • Death, Be Not Proud: The Making of THE EXORCIST III – feature-length, five-chapter documentary on the making of the film featuring interviews with actor Brad Dourif, production designer Lesley Dilley, composer Barry De Vorzon, producer Carter DeHaven and more…
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature
  • The Exorcist III
  • Special Features


For fans of this film I can’t see a more definitive version ever being released. The main theatrical feature looks stellar in 4K, Blatty’s Legion cut is included, and there are loads of extras covering every facet of the production and release. All of this housed in a release featuring the original theatrical key art and not yet another newly created piece. I can’t be the only one tired of those, right?

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