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What Makes ‘The Exorcist III’ Jump Scare So Effective

Sometimes the scariest thing in the world is stillness. And giant metal scissors.
The Exorcist Iii Jumpscare A
20th Century Fox
By  · Published on January 3rd, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about the iconic hospital jump scare in The Exorcist III.


The Exorcist III is a miracle for a number of reasons. It’s both jarringly singular and a rock-solid follow-up to one of the most popular films ever made. It also holds the unique status as one of the two films William Peter Blatty directed, the other being 1980’s The Ninth Configuration. It is a top-shelf Exorcist sequel despite not initially being conceived as such. And as if its existence weren’t freakish enough, its direct predecessor (1977’s Exorcist II: The Heretic) is widely considered one of the worst sequels of all time (even by its director, John Boorman).

And if all that miraculous context weren’t enough, The Exorcist III also contains the best jump scare of all time. No small feat considering shockers tend to register as cheap scares rather than well-earned jolts.

More beholden to Blatty’s 1983 horror novel Legion than the films of William Friedkin or Boorman, The Exorcist III is less of a religious spookfest than a theological murder mystery. Set 15 years after poor little Regan MacNeil fell prey to demonic possession, Lieutenant Kinderman (Geroge C. Scott) battles his own demons, chiefly a series of murders carrying the hallmarks of a supposedly deceased serial killer. When a recovered catatonic patient in a psychiatric holding cell claims to be the killer, Kinderman is horrified to discover the man looks just like his dead best friend, Father Damien Karras.

During an encounter with the man who appears to be Karras, Kinderman hears half-mumbled prophecies of a deadly fate for someone named Amy. That night, Blatty whisks us away to a hospital hallway, where we linger, in absolute stillness. With unnerving stillness and masterful fakeouts that anatomy of the jumpscare to follow boast a steady hand and a degree of intention sure to bristle the neck hairs of the most hardened horror hound.

Mild spoilers for the following video essay, but for those of you privy to The Exorcist III‘s boons, you’ll find the following scene breakdown an enlightening look at the power of restraint.

Watch “Dissecting the Greatest Jump Scare of All Time”:


Who made this?

This video essay on the iconic jumpscare in The Exorcist III is by Rue Morgue TV, the official video channel of Rue Morgue Magazine. A foremost authority on horror and genre fare, the Rue Morgue TV YouTube channel features essays, interviews, and much, much more. You can subscribe to their channel here. And you can find more ghoulish goods on their official website here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).