An Invitation To The Dance: 30 Years Of The ‘Exorcist III’ (1990)

The world was introduced to The Exorcist III thirty years ago on August 17, 1990, the second sequel to the classic horror film, The Exorcist (read our retro review here), from 1973. It was directed by the author of the original novel, William Peter Blatty, which he based off the sequel book, Legion.


With a budget of $11 million, the film made roughly $39 million at the box office, so not a great turn out. However, fans of this film are staunch believers when they say The Exorcist III is incredibly underrated … and they have a point.

The Exorcist II: The Heretic and The Exorcist III had some big shoes to fill following the success of the original film, since it is often considered the scariest film ever made. However, The Exorcist II was commercial failure compared to the third installment in terms of a sequel that did everything right.

Warning: this review may contain spoilers for The Exorcist III. Read at your own risk!

The Plot

The story focuses on Lt. William Kinderman, played by George C. Scott (The Changeling 1980 – read our retro review here), continuing his story after the events of the first film. A dear friend of Damien Karras (Jason Miller, who had a cameo in The Exorcist IIIas Patient X)—the priest that died at the end of The Exorcist—Kinderman is now an older man remembering his friend.

However, things take a turn when a series of murders occurs that is linked to Karras’ incident. Kinderman goes to the crime scene and notices that the murderer matches the description of James “The Gemini” Venamun (Brad Dourif: Child’s Play franchise). Venamun was executed 15 years before the murders, so questions arise.

Throughout the film, Kinderman goes to a psychiatric ward to talk with this Gemini Killer … or so he thinks. Dr. Temple, played by Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead TV series, In Cold Blood 1967), tells him the man they picked up wandering aimlessly claims to be the so-called killer. Kinderman soon realizes the man is not the Gemini Killer, but his friend, Karras.

Dourif’s character continues to call himself The Gemini Killer, and he tells Kinderman that he is being helped by a Master, the same one that possessed Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) in the original.

The film’s best moments come from the interactions between these two characters. Dourif gives the performance of a lifetime here. He is excellent in The Exorcist III and actually makes you believe he is the killer. George C. Scott gives a sympathetic tone to his role. You can tell he misses his friend, and the Dourif’s character does a great job at playing mind games with him.

The Nurse Scene

The Exorcist III also has one of the best scenes in horror. The camera focuses on a nurse going in and out of various rooms. The lack of music and tension during the almost six minute shot makes it unsettling. The camera remains stationary for the last two minutes of the scene, and that’s when the greatest jump scare ever happens.

This jump scare is perfect and comes at a time when the audience least expects it. The scene is famously dubbed “The Nurse Scene,” and rightly so.

An Invitation

The Exorcist III also has one of my favorite horror quotes ever. It comes when Kinderman questions Venamun on being the Gemini Killer. Venamun leans over and says, “Oh, you are issuing a clear invitation to the dance.” A terrifying line with so much meaning. Dourif delivers it perfectly, his deep, menacing voice adding to the seriousness of the line.

My Review

The creators of The Exorcist III did a fabulous job tying the story together in an unconventional way. Instead of focusing on Regan again, we look to Kinderman, an excellent way to finish off his story and get closure.

Remember when I said earlier that the film is considered by many fans for being underrated? I have to agree with them. The film is amazing, from the acting to the cinematography. It’s a chilling story, especially when Dourif is on screen. He is the icing on the cake and truly does a great job at making you feel sympathetic for him. Is he really the Gemini Killer, or is he just crazy?

Is The Exorcist III perfect? No. The plot tends to get a little messy here and there. However, looking beyond that, this film is an incredible horror movie and an excellent sequel to The Exorcist. I absolutely love this movie. It’s one of my favorite horror sequels ever. Thirty years later, The Exorcist III is still a work of art … and underrated one at that.

About Anthony Baamonde

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