Exorcist: The Beginning

"Terrible"

Exorcist: The Beginning Review


At one point, it was inconceivable that any big-budget Hollywood picture could rival Exorcist II: The Heretic as the most ridiculous and boring horror movie ever made. It took a stillborn cousin, Exorcist: The Beginning, to come close.

After two sequels, no producer in his right mind could think that The Exorcist franchise had much gas left in the tank. But the massively successful original chapter suggested an untold back story, and so we have - ta-da! - an insipid, un-scary, half-assed, $85 million prequel called Exorcist: The Beginning.

Well, really it's a remake of a prequel. After original director John Frankenheimer abandoned the project just a month before his death, Paul Schrader (Affliction, Auto Focus) signed on to make the movie. But after Schrader completed it, the execs fired him for serving up a subtle, psychological film, not unlike the underrated Exorcist III (easily the second-best of the franchise).

In came director #3, schlock-master Renny Harlin, the man responsible for some of the great bombs of the 20th century, including The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and the notorious Cutthroat Island. We're sad to report that Harlin outdoes himself.

The story itself isn't bad. A young(er) Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) has abandoned the priesthood after the horrors of the Holocaust have taken his faith. Now an archaeologist toiling in Egypt, Merrin is hired to recover an ancient idol from a 1,500 year-old church that's in bafflingly pristine condition under the Kenyan desert.

The laborers fear that the excavated church houses evil forces, and madness descends upon the camp, afflicting tribe members and British army men alike. El Diablo gets into a young boy, and the camp explodes in unrest as Merrin hides behind his shield of skepticism.

For all the dramatic potential of the story, Exorcist: The Beginning drags. Early intrigue gives way to disappointing payoffs, and Harlin seems content settling for cheap startles instead of true scares. You want rattling chills like the original? Sorry, you'll have to settle for loud noises and disturbing yet almost laughable imagery, like rivers of blood, cannibalistic crows, and a maggoty stillborn baby. At times, Exorcist: The Beginning feels reminiscent of a creaky haunted house ride at the county fair, and its abuse of CGI doesn't provide a dollop of the impact that the head-spinning and pea-soup-spewing of the 1973 model did.

The actors provide no relief from the dull gloom. Skarsgård has his work cut out for him as the younger version of Max von Sydow, and not just because he's obviously significantly older than Sydow was in The Exorcist. Skarsgård has had some great character moments in recent years; his soft-spoken, genocidal villainy was the best thing about this summer's King Arthur. But as Merrin, he seems made of oak and rusty nails, even when being swarmed by demonic flies or stalked by Satanic hyenas. In his defense, there's not much he can do with the material from first-time screenwriter Alexi Hawley, but Skarsgård is plain boring from reel to reel.

The misery of this flick isn't surprising given the résumés of Harlin and especially producer James G. Robinson, one of the more prolific churners of crap in Hollywood. We can't do justice to the series of disasters for which Robinson's taken credit over the past 20 years, but we urge you to look him up online and marvel for yourself.

By the end of the feels-way-longer-than-100 minutes, the mystery is no longer what evil lurks below the African dirt, but what movie the studio left on the shelf in order to distribute this gory mess. Rumors abound that the studio will release Schrader's first take of Exorcist: The Beginning on DVD (Editor's Note: Nope, this one's just got Harlin's version, with commentary track and making-of featurette. Schrader's version is here.). Maybe it's not too late for the distributors to do a little switcheroo in the theaters as well.

Presenting the new Exorcist Bug Zapper.



Exorcist: The Beginning

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Friday 20th August 2004

Box Office USA: $41.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $78M

Budget: $80M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Dominion Productions, Morgan Creek Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 11%
Fresh: 14 Rotten: 115

IMDB: 5.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: James G. Robinson,

Starring: as Father Merrin, as Sarah, as Father Francis, as Major Granville, as Jefferies, as Joseph, Andrew French as Chuma, as Lieutenant Kessel, as Semelier

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

Advertisement
The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Partisan Movie Review

Partisan Movie Review

With his feature debut, young Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman tells a creepy story about a...

The Revenant Movie Review

The Revenant Movie Review

A wrenching saga of survival and revenge, Alejandro G. Inarritu's new epic is just as...

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who simply can't be ignored, especially when he lobs a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.