As a horror film, Exorcist 3 has good bones - stellar acting, suspense over gore, intricate plotting and genuine bone-chilling scares. However, the studio's need to mold it into an Exorcist sequel caused one character to be played by two different actors and included a tacked on exorcism in the third act that feels forced and unearned. Spicediver's fanedit, Legion, is his effort to restore as much as possible what the movie would have been without the studio's influence.
This is one of those fan edits in which the editor has a keen eye not to cut out material just because he can. There are subtle trims to the dialog throughout the movie, but this edit is careful not to step on the scenes that actually work in the original. While he is unable to fix the problem of two actors playing the same character, his version more accurately conveys Blatty's intent - that one actor is playing how the character looks, and the other is playing the entity that is controlling him. In the original, this distinction is harder to grasp.
However, where this edit shines is in the execution of its third act. Seemingly impossible at the outset, Spicediver has managed to exorcise the exorcism (cute, right?) altogether without the slightest hint that something is missing. The edit changes the entire tone of the ending substituting spectacle for remorseless finality. In doing so, it creates an entirely new dimension of horror altogether - the tragic fate of Father Karras.
This is an excellent edit, not only in being a taut horror film, but also as an example in demonstrating that sometimes insurmountable problems can be fixed in the right editor's hands.
Audio / Video Quality: Great. There's no pixilation or noticeable blocking in the blacks, which is a prominent color in the film. Though, I do wish the edit was available in HD.
Video: Seamless editing here. Nothing feels oddly inserted or missing.
Audio: Excellent. There are no pops, dialog chopping or noticeable transitions in the soundtrack.
Narrative: An improvement upon the original by bringing elements of the original to the front that were present but not prominent.
Enjoyment: When it comes to horror films, if you enjoy tension more than bloodshed, and pondering over spectacle, this edit is for you.
Exorcist 3 was a mildly interesting failure--the book Legion and the film adaptation shared the same weakness--mainly that they are way too talky. Anything in Exorcist 3 that a horror fan would actually want to see happens off-screen. If you want to see a movie in which a series of murders is described to you through dialogue then Exorcist 3 is definitely for you.
William Peter Blatty actually came up with a pretty cool story--basically there are a series of grisly (or so we are told) murders and the trail eventually leads to the psych ward of a hospital which has a patient in solitary who is the splitting image of deceased Father Karras from The Exorcist. He also was admitted to the hospital around the same time that Karras. died. The mental patient knows details about the murders that only the killer could know but he's kept under strict lock-down, so how can he be the murderer?
While the hospital patient is supposed to be the spitting image of Father Karras (Jason Miller) anytime there's dialogue he's played instead by Brad Dourif, which might seem odd but it turns out to be the best choice William Peter Blatty made. In Dourif's mouth the talky dialogue actually comes alive and the scenes become electrifying. The rest of the time the movie is generally a bit dull and way too restrained. It's a shame William Friedkin didn't direct this--restraint was never part of his cinematic vocabulary--it's likely he would have hit this one out of the park.
I haven't seen the theatrical version since it played in theaters so I can't really compare it to the fan edit. I can say that Legion was much more entertaining than I remembered Exorcist 3 being but the new ending is pretty abrupt and unsatisfying--it's very possible that this ending is an improvement but I don't even remember the original ending so I definitely couldn't say.
I would recommend this fan edit of Exorcist 3 but viewers shouldn't expect a lost classic because the original movie really wasn't very good.
My favorite fan edits usually take a pretty good movie and make it even more enjoyable and I think spicediver has done just that with this edit. I was already a pretty big fan of The Exorcist III. I think it's a very good looking movie with some terrific performances. The film only has a couple of really big scares, but I think the atmosphere and buildup to those moments makes them all the more effective. The original Alien does a similar slow buildup to create tension. Spicediver has made a few simple, but effective changes to the film, that I think work very well. The ending does feel a little rushed, but I know that he only had so much source material to work with. I highly recommended this edit to any fan of The Exorcist III.
It's obvious a lot of Spicediver care and attention went into demucking the theatrical release and turning it into an altogether different beast. The edit takes on a different pace and feels like a religious horror piece from the '70s, which is a plus; it allows one a chance to enjoy Dourif's and Scott's performances within a more coherent story, even if the latter hams it up in spots.
As noted by Dwight Fry, the custom titles look fantastic and range-free studio organic, both at the beginning of the movie and at the end. Another nice touch: Spicediver's foreword with creepy choirboy singing before the edit proper begins.
I watched the mp4 version, which sported excellent video quality.
Thanks for the positive review, ssj.
Some very observant comments about the 70's flavour - It never occurred to me until now.