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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.35%
Worth A Look: 11.96%
Average: 14.13%
Pretty Bad36.96%
Total Crap: 32.61%

4 reviews, 68 user ratings

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Exorcist: The Beginning
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by EricDSnider

"The dullest film about evil since 'Glitter.'"
2 stars

I’ll tell you the history of “Exorcist: The Beginning,” and you tell me if you’re surprised that it sucks.

Originally, John Frankenheimer was going to direct it, but he backed out and then died. He was replaced by Paul Schrader, a very talented screenwriter (“The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver”) and a passable director (“American Gigolo,” “Auto Focus”). Schrader finished shooting and gave Morgan Creek Productions executives a screening, whereupon Morgan Creek fired him. In the words of the New York Post, his movie didn’t have “the bloody violence the backers had wanted.” Schrader had made a more psychological film; Morgan Creek wanted blood and gore.

So Renny Harlin, director of such crappy fare as the fourth “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Cutthroat Island,” was hired to replace Schrader, and the film – pay attention here – was almost entirely reshot. (There’s some debate over how much of Schrader’s footage made it to the final version, but the estimates range from none to only about 10 percent.) They had a finished movie, and they scrapped it, rewrote the script, and started over.

At some point in there, an executive ought to have swallowed his pride and pulled the plug, because it should have been clear to any sentient being that the movie was failing at every turn. Sure enough, they got the gore they wanted, and sure enough, most of it is gratuitous and off-putting. It’s the kind of violence that makes you angry because you can tell the filmmaker put it in just because someone told him to, and not because it emerges organically from the story. For example, we must watch the same flashback of the same little girl getting shot in the head by Nazis three different times. Surely one image of a child being shot in the head is enough for any movie – but, then, “Exorcist: The Beginning” is a movie that likes to show children being traumatized. (Wait’ll you see one get ripped apart by hyenas!)

It is set in 1949 in Kenya, where archeologists have discovered a Christian church buried under the sand. They are alarmed because the church appears to date back to well before Christianity came to that part of Africa. (The year they give is A.D. 5, which was actually well before Christianity came to ANYWHERE, let alone Africa.) Lancaster Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard), a former Catholic priest who lost his faith during World War II and who is now an archeologist – and who, in his later years, would cast the devil out of Linda Blair in the original “Exorcist” -- is called upon to search for a particular artifact in the church and, if possible, to determine how the heck the church got there in the first place.

Well, things in Kenya are already pretty creepy when Merrin gets there, and his “don’t call me ‘Father’” routine just adds surliness to the mix. Computer-generated images that are supposed to look like hyenas are roaming around the dig site even during the day, and the standard Odd Events are occurring right and left (crucifixes mysteriously turning upside-down, maggots everywhere, that sort of thing). A French priest (Patrick O’Kane) went mad after climbing down into the submerged church through the ceiling, and now a little boy named Joseph (Remy Sweeney) is behaving strangely in an all-too-familiar way. A young priest (James D’Arcy) is hanging around for atmospheric purposes, and there’s a pretty doctor (Izabella Sorupco) with whom Merrin would like to do his own exorcising, if you know what I mean.

What made the original “Exorcist” (and none of its sequels) work was that it focused our attention on something in particular: the devil, and his inhabitation of a little girl. This prequel makes the villain too vague. We know there’s something “evil” around, but we don’t know what it is, or whom it has possessed. There is no suspense over the fates of the characters because not only do we not care about them, we don’t know what they’re being threatened by, either.

Maybe money became a factor. I would imagine after spending $30 million to make a film, you get a little cheap when you decide to remake it. The afore-referenced hyena attack might have been horrific if the hyenas didn’t look so laughably fake, for example.

Harlin achieves a few moments of delicious creepiness early on, before we realize the story isn’t going anywhere. By the time we get to the real exorcising, it’s too late. We’re bored with, and as, hell.

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originally posted: 08/25/04 15:51:59
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell some good shocks thats it 2 stars
1/16/14 Dan Dimos Wow it's 2014, ten years after the release of the worst movie of all time. 1 stars
10/31/08 tiffany pettey creepy just like the amytville horror 4 stars
8/05/08 Bnorm I was excited to see this but damn did that end quickly 1 stars
5/22/07 action movie fan only the first excorcist was scary and effective=this is a bore 2 stars
5/02/07 Tracey Chambers It wasnt bad. Cant beat the original though 4 stars
3/09/07 Sugarfoot Not even if Harlin had George C. Scott, could this have been anything but terrible. 1 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega Weird. But you'll be entertained. Much better than Dominion. 3 stars
12/29/06 David Pollastrini needs more gore! 3 stars
12/14/06 D. Kickham Awful!! Can't believe I paid to watch it. 2 stars
7/12/06 David Cohen Better than Exorcist II, but still bad 2 stars
5/25/06 Paulette Gross Just because it says it is an "Exorcist" movie, does not mean it is true. This SUCKS! 1 stars
3/02/06 SHeila D. Sablas Average 3 stars
12/12/05 millersxing Producers of "When Hyenas Attack" end this beleaguered movie franchise at "the beginning". 1 stars
12/03/05 cody a freaky and gory prequel to exorcist series, good plot, good acting,but way over the top 4 stars
11/20/05 Bestit Complete garbage, check out Shrader's DOMINION instead. 1 stars
11/12/05 ShadowFace5 contrived and sloooooow. decent ending 2 stars
6/02/05 malcolm mildly surprising. how do moviemakers keep thinking they can improve on such a classic? 3 stars
5/07/05 Amy Riggsby Slow at the beginning, but an okay movie towards the end. 3 stars
5/01/05 Paul Shawver if you like fantasy and horror it was entertaining 3 stars
4/26/05 E-FUNK Renny Harlin's masterpiece of shit. Makes part 2 look like Casablanca. 1 stars
4/22/05 Pippin007 Not scary!! Save your money on buying this. 1 stars
4/13/05 Indrid Cold I had no expectations going in, so maybe that's why it seemed OK. 3 stars
3/25/05 David Fowler "The Exorcist" is brilliant, "Exorcist 3" is great. Blatty wrote both, anybody get a clue? 2 stars
3/23/05 Naka Go fuck yourself, everyone involved in this. Go fuck yourselves. 1 stars
3/11/05 The Grinch One of the worst fucking movies ever made...I felt sorry for the actors..Schrader redeemed 1 stars
3/06/05 Kyle One of the worst horror movies of all time. Just abysmal. 1 stars
3/05/05 tatum Almost as bad as "Exorcist II: The Heretic" 1 stars
3/02/05 ELI awful. just awful. acting was awful, so was script + directing. worst film of the year. >:( 1 stars
2/22/05 ROY L. CAIN Tries to out do the original, but still delivers . 4 stars
10/29/04 The Dude i would've had more fun dousing my 13 bucks with petrol & setting it on fire! 1 stars
10/24/04 Ronny Disappointing, Hilarious at some points. A potencial good story crashed into pieces... 2 stars
10/22/04 Heather Purplethorne damien, Are you damien as in OMEN, or as in MEAN GIRLS? 3 stars
10/22/04 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Yes, Exotic setting intrigues, but still there are only so many variations on demon-busting 3 stars
10/07/04 elepante_boi pretty good but i hate the last part... 4 stars
10/04/04 Matt Saikaly An incoherent, predictable, and sappy piece of "horror." 2 stars
10/03/04 P-Money the hyennas looked like pokemons 2 stars
9/26/04 djacosta Good 5 stars
9/26/04 damien good 5 stars
9/12/04 Mike jarboe A vile, disgusting, pointless, non-scary waste of time. 1 stars
9/04/04 jeff CRAP 1 stars
9/02/04 kk holy crap this sucks 1 stars
8/31/04 Janet Sullivan The devil is not here today, would be more accurate a line in this film. 1 stars
8/31/04 Trish I loved it! Decide for yourself 5 stars
8/27/04 Wayneee CRAP!!! I love horror movies, but freaking HATE this. 1 stars
8/26/04 Naka Poor Paul Schradder, he's the only one who knew what the hell he was doing... 1 stars
8/26/04 raul valdez omg it sucked i hope they show Paul Shcarders version 1 stars
8/25/04 Webdude To say this movie sucks would be an insult to vacuums everywhere. REFUND!!!! 1 stars
8/25/04 Roy Again The scariest movie ever! I thought I was going to go deaf! 2 stars
8/25/04 TJ what a ripoff 1 stars
8/24/04 lewis see it for yourself before you let others decide for you 4 stars
8/24/04 Rav Dhaliwal It was worth the ticket price and time 4 stars
8/24/04 Horror Fan DMR The first third was ok - the rest was awful 2 stars
8/24/04 Brad For the first hour I thought I was watching Indiana Jones! 2 stars
8/23/04 Loren Rosson Nothing like the original classic, but infinitely better than Exorcist II: The Heretic 3 stars
8/23/04 Dai I think it couldve been way way way better, same old unfearful situations.No Fans were made 2 stars
8/23/04 Steve Ludwig boring, predictable, ultimately disappointing 2 stars
8/23/04 Michael Meade On Christmas Eve 1973, the world of cinema horror was forever catapulted to new and disturb 2 stars
8/22/04 Willie G. Better than expected (In a cheap, ripoff summer-fun-movie kind of way). 4 stars
8/22/04 Peregate 10% jump scares, 10% gross, 80% dull as heck 2 stars
8/21/04 m. willie aames opening: 5 stars, middle: 4 stars, ending: 2 stars...... 3 stars
8/21/04 Allan Arbour not as bad as I thought, not enough demon scenes, but not bad 4 stars
8/21/04 TheBoompsy Really gross! If you're looking for original, look elsewhere. A modern vers of the original 4 stars
8/21/04 William Nellis Scary and done well, EXCEPT for horrible cgi 4 stars
8/21/04 Dan the Damned too many cheap scares does not a horror movie make. one was Merrin losing his footing!?! 3 stars
8/21/04 SlapAss first 1 was good, second sucked, third was ok, this one falls between 2 and 3, i slap ass 3 stars
8/21/04 McGraw Stick to the first one. Lame, uninspired summer nonsense. 1 stars
8/21/04 Mix Master Mason The best horror film since THE RING. Nothing like the original but still very good. 5 stars
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