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Tuesday December 5th 2023

The Exorcist III | 1990

The Exorcist III filming location: Dahlgren Chapel, Georgetown University, Washington DC
The Exorcist III location: the college chapel: Dahlgren Chapel, Georgetown University, Washington DC | Photograph: wikimedia / Farragutful

It’s like Exorcist II was a bad dream which never happened, as a burst of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells takes us back to the world and the style of the first film.

There’s smart dialogue, sharply drawn characters and one of the scariest jump scares in cinema, as writer William Peter Blatty takes over directing, and George C Scott takes over from the late Lee J Cobb as movie-mad Detective Kinderman.

Studio interiors were filmed at Wilmington in North Carolina but the setting is once again Washington DC’s Georgetown district, established as the rowing team from the Potomac River carry their boat off along 36th Street and Father Dyer (Ed Flanders) looks down the steps from Prospect Street on which Father Karras met his death (the real ones again – they were recreated in the Burbank studios for Exorcist II).

The Exorcist III filming location: Holy Trinity Church, N Street, Georgetown, Washington DC
The Exorcist III location: the chapel where the priest is killed: Holy Trinity Church, N Street, Georgetown, Washington DC | Photograph: wikimedia / Farragutful

The church, through which an eerie wind blows and the eyes of the crucifix spring open, is Holy Trinity Church, 3513 N Street, in Georgetown. Something is stirring and the priest here really ought to think twice about hearing confessions from strangers.

The priests are once again based on the campus of Georgetown University, where Father Dyer conducts a service in the Dahlgren Chapel, the place which was desecrated in the William Friedkin film.

The first sign that something demonic is loose again comes with the finding of the body of a young boy alongside the Key Bridge, the six-lane concrete arch bridge over the Potomac which connects Georgetown with the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia.

To cheer him up on the anniversary of Karras’ death, Kinderman meets up with his old friend Father Dyer on Wisconsin Avenue at N Street NW for a trip to the movies. The golden dome in the background is that of the old Riggs bank.

The cinema in which they go to see It’s A Wonderful Life is shown to be on Pennsylvania Avenue at M Street NW – no there is no cinema there.

But the restaurant to which they retire afterwards is real enough. It’s The Tombs, 1226 36th Street NW, a popular rathskeller located near the entrance to Georgetown University, and a Georgetown institution since 1962, also seen in the original The Exorcist.

Kinderman’s surreal dream, set in a strange combination of Grand Central Station and a vast hospital, was filmed in the disused Ideal Cement Factory building at Wilmington, North Carolina (which was also the site of ‘Dinohattan’ in the ill-fated film of Super Mario Bros). And, yes, the briefly glimpsed blind guy with one (dubbed) line is a then unknown Samuel L Jackson.

The entrance to the hospital where Kinderman interviews the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif) – who occasionally morphs into Karras – is N Street NW at 35th Street NW.

If Nicol Williamson’s exorcism scene seems a bit disconnected from the rest of the film, that’s because it was tacked on after main filming had finished, at an added cost of $4 million, when studio execs realized that their big, scary movie called The Exorcist III didn’t actually have an exorcism.