I don’t know why people don’t like Exorcist: The Beginning. Especially the “critics”. I think it’s pretty competent, scary, and visually stunning. Especially when you consider the fact that this is the fourth movie in The Exorcist franchise. Of course, the original remains the best one with the rest of the sequels varying in quality from laughably bad to pretty watchable. The Beginning is a moody and craggy prequel with a heavy atmosphere and story that requires attention. The attention that’s totally worth it.
The opening sequence with a lot of blood and gore warns the travelers of the evils that lay ahead. And now, some information about the two movies with exactly the same story: Paul Schrader was originally hired to direct this movie, but after its completion studio was not satisfied with his work so they hired Renny Harlin to try to make a better version. Did he succeed in this, it is up to you to decide.
This is Renny’s version of the movie and Paul’s came out one year later and the movie is called Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Studios wanted a more visceral experience and somehow thought that the guy who directed Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea (I’ll give him that one) could flesh out Pazuzu better than Paul.
It is the year of our lord Satan, pardon me, lord Pazuzu 1947 and we find Father Merrin drinking away his days in Kairo, Egypt. The second world war took an unimaginable toll on him and he’s now more an archeologist than a priest. He meets with antiquities dealer named Semelier who has a proposal for him. A strange-looking church has been uncovered in the Turkana region of British Kenya. A church built in 500 AD. A church that should not be there…
To tell you the truth, this version is somewhat bloodier than the prequel, but was the trade-off between gore and fear worth it? Great special effects, the magnificent performance of Stellan Skarsgård (Liam Neeson supposed to be in this movie, but eventually he did not, and I am glad for that) and the whole devilish premise were enough for me. And the supporting cast is also fucking amazing! From the young guard (Izabella Scorupco, James D’Arcy) to old-timers still kicking ass (Alan Ford, David Bradley, Ben Cross).
The atmosphere is incredibly intense and since most of the movie takes place in Africa it also has this exotic vibe. You wouldn’t necessarily associate christianity and the African continent but there’s a long history there. Even today The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant, or Tabot, in Axum.
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Izabella Scorupco, James D’Arcy, Remy Sweeney, Ben Cross, Alan Ford
Fun Facts: The film was originally rated NC-17 “due to the film being too graphic and violent”. The offending scenes were edited and the result was the R-rating for “strong violence and gore. As well as disturbing images and rituals, and for language including some sexual dialogue”.
IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0204313/