Exorcist: The Beginning

Movie Review #666

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Studio: Morgan Creek Productions – Dominion Productions
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Renny Harlin.  Produced by James G. Robinson.  Based on the movie The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.  Story by William Wisher and Caleb Carr.  Screenplay by Alexi Hawley.

Rated R by the MPAA – graphic violence, disturbing content, profanity.  Runs 1 hour, 54 minutes.  Premiere in Hollywood, California on August 18, 2004.  Wide release in the USA on August 20, 2004.

Featuring Rupert Degas in an uncredited voice role as the Devil.  Starring Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco, James D’Arcy, Julian Wadham, Andrew French, Ralph Brown, Antonie Kamerling, Eddie Osei, and Israel Aduramo.

Cinemaniac Reviews half star

“Beware the ides of January…”
–The Cinemaniac, upon noticing that his 666th review was set for 1/15

“Exorcist: The Beginning” isn’t the subject of my 666th movie review simply because it’s an “Exorcist” movie.  It’s also because the movie is so abysmal, it’s as if Satan himself produced it to cast a dreadful curse upon the greatest Halloween classic ever to hit the silver screen.  That this 2004 film shares part of that 1973 film’s title is heresy.

The movie cares way too much about shrill violin music, excessive gore, and over mixing its sound effect to go “boo.”  In effect, we’re left with but half a story.  And that half a story isn’t even interesting.  Nobody really cares about Father Merrin’s encounter with Pazuzu.  William Friedkin showed us that experience ever so suspensefully, as the ten-minute prologue to 1973’s “The Exorcist”.  We don’t need two hours of Father Merrin in his Indiana Jones-esque role.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But that’s not precisely why “The Beginning” is a drag.  It has an obvious attention deficit (and it’s telling that so do we while watching it).  The preference is at times to focus on romance, perhaps because that markets better with audiences.  As if they don’t already know the movie is bound to be successful: 1973’s “Exorcist” remains the all-time highest grossing horror movie, highest grossing R-rated movie, and ninth highest grossing movie overall.  Even the characters seem to have already seen the events in that movie, despite this being a prequel, so a box office failure would be shocking.

It deserves a second mention that the sound mixing is downright annoying  If anything keeps us from sleeping in “The Beginning”, it’s a migraine.  Not one bit of this frightens, so there’s no point in making such a loud, frenetic movie out of it.

But that’s what you get when you have a director who’s totally in it for the money.  Director Renny Harlin likely hasn’t seen “The Exorcist”, and if he did, he didn’t appreciate it as a movie with a story.  Hell, he probably didn’t appreciate it at all.  He’s constantly nodding at other horror movies and trying not to let us notice.  Look!  There’s a toddler wailing because something’s gone wrong in the Roman Catholic Church!  That’s “The Omen” for ya.  A moth!  A moth!  Another moth!  That’d be “The Silence of the Lambs”.  Ooh look a woman showering!  There’s “Psycho”.

Though those are revered horror movies.  I must say, what a damn shame that they made it into the god-awful script that became (dare I speak the name once more?) “Exorcist: The Beginning”.  It’s the worst possible “Exorcist” movie: where if you do make it to the end, watching the demonic, lustful, profane demon undergo an exorcism is a hoot.

Tomorrow’s Review

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