Tag Archives: William Peter Blatty

The Psychology Of The Scare: Gerontophobia In Horror Films

I’ve always been under the impression horror is what you make of it. Stories and films relay on our innermost fears and phobias to make an impression with the viewer, hence the art of the scare. I don’t care if you’re badass Kurt Russell or Samuel L. Jackson, everyone has one thing or another that makes them uncomfortable.

Horror films have utilized a wide-range of phobias to attract audiences to give them the “safe” scare adrenaline rush. Sub-genre horror movies with the focus on clowns, kids, psychological warfare are some of the most popular among fanfare. However personally speaking, the use of older folks in horror films as the core of fears is some of the most powerful I’ve seen – and most effective. GERONTOPHOBIA, which means the fear of elders or aging, is actually a fairly common fear amongst the populous. We associate looking at our elders with our own mortality and it can be a hard pill to swallow- so we place a heavy fear on it. As authoritarian as it sounds to place our once care-givers who have aged in years at the center of what we fear most sounds inhuman at best, in horror cinema it works to a degree; and all too well.

I mean, who WOULDN’T be horrified of this?!

The first film I saw as a young girl with an elder in a terrifying role was that of Julian Beck’s portrayal of the malevolent Henry Kane in Poltergiest II. That being said, I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the only one his performance affected in a unfavorable manner. To this very day I get very anxious when an elder comes knocking on my door mostly thanks to his frightening exchange with Craig T. Nielson in front of the Freeling home. Knowing later in my older years, Beck was suffering from pancreatic cancer and basically dying at the time of filming haunts me in waves of periodic guilt trips for being so petrified of the man; who literally giving a dying performance and the one most people remember him by. Whether that was his intention, and I’m sure it was to give it his all, I still can’t help but feel horrible that I myself associated his deathly appearance with such fear; and still kind of do. Little Heather O’ Rourke was so afraid of her on-screen antagonist that she cried and ran away from him on set upon first seeing him. I’m not sure if the mall scene in the movie IS the actual first time she saw him as I can’t confirm it at this time, but knowing that it did indeed happen as stated by crew members, makes this scene all the more believable.

That had to have stung.

Four years later came a more prominent display of gerontophobia in film in the form of William Peter Blatty’s TRUE sequel to The Exorcist, The Exorcist III based off Blatty’s PHENOMINAL novel Legion. Most of the story is set in the gloomy atmosphere of a hospital, particularly in the disturbed wards and of those suffering from dementia and catatonics. The demon this time around, James Venamun, ‘The Gemini Killer” has possessed a once-thought deceased Damian Karras and is tormenting both the fallen priest and old friend Kinderman (George C. Scott) as a revenge tactic on behalf of “friends” for the McNeill incident 15 years prior. If that couldn’t get any more fucked up, the Gemini hops from body to body in the wards possessing the older dementia victims and feeble-minded to carry out murderous acts; hammering home how vulnerable and horrifying it can be to age. Because now we have to worry about getting possessed by demons to boot.

Fantastic.

A more recent film by Adam Robitel, The Taking of Deborah Logan works on the same concept as The Exorcist III except the entire film is focused on this matter and not just an excerpt. Miss Deborah Logan (Jill Larson) is slowly slipping away with Alzheimer’s but something is obviously more sinister afoot with an actual possession going on here. This one really leans into the fears of mortality within us all and what happens when we have reached that bridge in our life span. The pain and the suffering can be tremendous and not only affects us as individuals, but our loved ones as well. The reality of the matter at hand is, if we so happen to live beyond our 70’s and 80’s, it is most likely to come with some painful challenges such as a degenerative disease as terrifying as that of Alzheimer’s- which mind you is displayed pretty accurately in this movie. If one has never suffered from good ol’ gerontophobia prior to seeing this one, chances are you’ll at least be thinking about it soon after.

There are many other film I could list here, some notable ones like The Visit or Ghost Story, but I think you guys are smart and get the point here. Old age in itself can be a source of true horror and is obviously an effective tactic as plot point in the genre. However, it can also be very damning unfortunately and further put a damper on our views of aging. The human experience is one hell of a ride isn’t it? Let’s just hope we don’t piss off any demonic entities’ along the way as we grow into our twilight years.

A Few Things You Might Not Know About “The Exorcist III”

I fondly remember the fateful night in 1990where my father, uncle, my cousin and an eight-year-old Patti made a Saturday night trip to our favorite local movie theater that stood as possibly, one of the last retro looking movie houses in all of Las Vegas. This might sound silly as of course, this was 1990, but I’m talking SUPER RETRO here. The entire building was made of brick, popcorn stands where mere popcorn and hot dog carts inside the lobby with a few cases of candy on the side, velvet red curtains covered the theater screens until showtime commenced, and the GIANT illuminated cinema marquee sign that displayed the featured films playing, could literally be seen from miles away. The place was absolutely beautiful inside and out, (as you can see pictured below of the inside lobby) and served as the place where I had seen most of the movies growing up until its demise and demolition over 15 years ago.

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

*Shout out to ClassicLasVegas.com for this awesome photo!

It’s also the place where I first saw our movie of the day here, The Exorcist III. And yep. I remember peeing my pants a little as I was eight-goddamn-years-old in regards to that one scene. You know which one I’m talking about… And also, yes. The two grown men and older teenage male cousin laughed at the eight-year-old girl who produced a squirt of nature’s lemonade.

Dicks.

*MAJOR SPOILER HERE. DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVEN’T LIVED AND HAVE DONE A DISSERVICE TO YOUR LIFE BY NOT WATCHING THIS FILM.

 

As fun as it is to reminisce about peeing the pants, let’s get to the real topic here. If you’re here and still reading, chances are you’re a fan of the HIGHLY UNDERRATED psychological-thriller based off William Peter Blatty’s fantastic novel, Legion; which of course, serves as the true direct sequel to The Exorcist. So, we’re going to skip all the captain obvious bullshit plot explanations and get right into some shit that you may or may not know about this film. And hell, if you watch it again with a new knowledge and some more appreciation, well stunning. I’ve done my job here.

 

1. The Exorcist III Was Jeffrey Dahmer’s Favorite Movie

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

Well, a film that focuses on another serial killer doesn’t seem far-fetched as a favorite of one of America’s most notorious, eh? According to various old reports, Dahmer would watch the movie over, and over. And even watched portions of the film with some of his victims after bringing them back to his apartment. One of these men was one who had escaped- Tracy Edwards, who claims the film was on at the time he was guided around the apartment by Dahmer. Reports also claim that Dahmer had purchased contact lenses with yellow tint, to mimic The Gemini Killer.

 

2. They Snuck In A Reference To The Fly II

A Few Things You Might Not Know About "The Exorcist III"

As I may have stated in previous articles, my parents had no qualms about taking their young child to the theater for an extreme horror film. Becuase, hey, fuck 101 Dalmations. They didn’t have the patience for that watered down-Disney shit. So, watching this at the theater at the age of eight, I caught this one right away as I had seen The Fly II a year prior with my mother and I left the theater crying after the scene with the dog. Ugh. I still hate it. Anyway, Lee Richardson plays that asshole in that film that got his just desserts for hurting that animal and has a small part as the University President in The Exorcist III. When asked by Father Dyer what his favorite film, he replies coyly, “The Fly.”

*Also worth noting, Brad Dourif who brilliantly portrays the Gemini, references his cinematic alter-ego Chucky during one of his ramblings. In the film, he says, “It’s child’s play”, and we then cut to a scene to a young boy that resembles a Good Guy.

 

3. Both William Friedkin and John Carpenter Were Attached To Direct Before Blatty

john carpenter

Well, it certainly would have been iconic enough had OG Exorcist director William Friedkin at the helm once again, but John Carpenter?! That would have been something to see his vision of legion eh? Blatty originally collaborated with Friedkin and penned out The Exorcist III with Friedkin attached to direct. After Friedkin backed out, the project died and was turned into a novel- AKA Legion. After the success of the novel, Blatty offered out it on the market in the form of a screenplay and Morgan Creek bought the rights to make the film, whom brought on the legendary John Carpenter to direct. However, after seeing Blatty’s passion and visionary input regarding his adaptation, he stepped down to hand the reigns to the rightful owner.

 

4. A Plot Twist Was Suggested Involving Regan Macneil- And A Birth Of Possessed Twins….?!

Regan-MacNeil-From-Exorcist

This has to be the most WTF fact of them all…

Yes, this was suggested to William Peter Blatty as studios were in negotiations to adapt the screenplay by Carolco Pictures. The idea of a grown-up Regan giving birth to possessed twins completely undermines the whole idea of Legion and I don’t blame him a bit for laughing that off and settling with Morgan Creek Productions- even if they still haven’t given us a REAL directors cut of the film, at least that didn’t happen.

 

5. The Alternate Ending We Still Haven’t Seen

exorcist 3 ending

The ending we all know, and even in that Shout Factory edition, was not the intended final vision of Blatty. Reports claim it was scripted AND filmed, but we’ve still yet to see the dramatically different ending to The Exorcist III. But you know, Morgan Creek wanted that exorcism in there, so if moneybags wanted it, by God they were going to get it and the following was scrapped and reshot to their liking:

The novel Legion ends with the Gemini Killer summoning Kinderman to his cell for a final speech and then willingly dropping dead after his alcoholic Christian evangelist abusive father, finally dies from a heart attack. As his motive for killing was always to shame daddy, the Gemini’s reason for remaining on Earth ceases to exist. He then drops dead, thus freeing Karras. Albeit by death, but nevertheless releasing him from all the torture. In Blatty’s original screenplay adaptation, the ending is similar to the novel except that the Gemini’s death is not self-induced but forced supernaturally and suddenly by the death of his father.

 

The Exorcist III remains criminally underrated and if anything to the haters, (and really, who are you?) serves as a beautiful character analysis of different walks of life in the form of one chilling film. Aside from Silence f the Lambs, it stands as one of THE BEST psychological thrillers in cinematic history. Bold statement? Maybe. Perhaps you should schedule a rewatch and come back to comment to challenge me.

That’s me issuing a clear invitation to the dance. Pick up your copy from Amazon here!