How A Real-Life Serial Killer Hurt The Exorcist's Legacy

William Peter Blatty's plan of putting an even more disturbing spin on The Exorcist series was to write and direct The Exorcist III, but the real-life killer Jeffrey Dahmer's tangible obsession with the film damaged its reputation, as well as the franchise's future. The 1992 trial of the notorious serial killer revealed that he incorporated aspects of the film into his sadistic murders, such as imitating the fictional Gemini Killer. The Exorcist III's influence on Jeffrey Dahmer might have tarnished The Exorcist's legacy forever.


The Exorcist III was the third installment of The Exorcist series and performed poorly at the box office compared to its predecessors, a fact William Peter Blatty attributed to a title change influenced by the production company. Reviews were mixed, but the consensus was that the film did not live up to the original, despite inducing a heavier sense of fear and artistry. Linda Blair's Regan character was finally removed from the Exorcist saga to instead shadow the disgruntled Lieutenant William Kinderman. Kinderman discovered The Gemini Killer, a serial killer executed for his crimes, to be demonically resurrected in Father Damien Karras who got locked up in a psych ward.

Related: The Exorcist Season 3: What The Cancelled Show Would Have Been About

In February 1992, serial killer and sex offender, Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted of murdering 15 men between 1978 and 1991. As gruesome details regarding how he treated his victims surfaced, he soon became recognized as one of the most sadistic serial killers America had ever known. Jeffrey Dahmer's trial unearthed many disturbing truths, though one aspect of his murders stood out as a focal point. His final attempted victim Tracy Edwards testified that Dahmer would force his victims to watch the horror movie The Exorcist III and described his experience in detail. William Peter Blatty frequently discussed how his original ideas for The Exorcist III were warped and commercialized by the studios, but the sequel's real pitfalls were overshadowed by Jeffrey Dahmer's sadistic connection to the film. The reason why Blatty's sequel became regarded as one of horror's most underrated films is because of how overblown Dahmer's trial became in the media. A portion of the public believed The Exorcist III should not be celebrated due to its connotations. This serial killer's notoriety would forever shadow the franchise and turn moviegoers away from watching beyond The Exorcist's third installment. It also added fuel to the rumors that the production of the first Exorcist film was cursed.

Why Jeffrey Dahmer Identified With Exorcist 3's Gemini Killer

The Exorcist 3 Demon Eyes Close Up

According to Edwards' testimony, Dahmer related heavily to The Gemini Killer. He bought and wore yellow contacts, chanted throughout the film, and most enjoyed Patient X's scenes. The Gemini's M.O. lined up similarly to Jeffrey Dahmer's own. Dahmer was known for keeping parts of his victims, for sustenance or twisted pleasure. The more common parts he would keep were genitals, hands, and skulls. In The Exorcist III, The Gemini Killer referenced retaining heads and keeping parts from his victims. Dahmer's fascination with how the human body functioned likely bled over into his obsession with the fictional Exorcist character since The Gemini Killer talked extensively about how to drain the blood from a body before decapitation. Disturbing characters were not new to cinema and Jeffrey Dahmer could have identified with various other films aside from The Exorcist sequel. Unfortunately, William Peter Blatty's cult classic was chosen as a favorite by Dahmer which subsequently led to the Exorcist franchise's tainted legacy.

The Exorcist III unfortunately never achieved the appropriate infamy it deserved due to the devastating impact of Jeffrey Dahmer's trial. The Exorcist saga is reviving itself in 2023 with a sequel to the 1973 masterpiece starring Ellen Burstyn, so fortunately Dahmer's influence has not damaged the future of the franchise — even if he affected its legacy. The real serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer nonetheless hurt how The Exorcist franchise is remembered today because of his sadistic obsession with The Exorcist III.