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"Exorcist:  The Beginning"

Directed by Renny Harlin.
Written by Alexi Hawley.  Based on "The Exorcist" by William Peter Blatty.
Starring Stellan Skarsgård, Izabella Scorupco, James D'Arcy and Remy Sweeney.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  8/29/04


I loved "The Exorcist", and the rerelease of the film with the new footage was great.  Messing with the prior product seemed like a bad move to me, but "Exorcist: The Beginning" does have its good moments thanks to a slick-looking production and a couple of genuinely good scares.

Stellan Skarsgård stars as Merrin, a former priest that has lost the faith but hasn't lost his desire to complete archeological digs for the highest bidder the world over.  When the film opens, Merrin is called upon to investigate a dig near Nairobi in the 1940s, fresh out of his time working as a priest in Europe and witnessing war atrocities courtesy of the Nazis.  This dig is a little bit different than most, though...the dig seems to have turned up a 1500-year-old church that pre-dates Christianity (???) and looks so new that it almost seems that someone intentionally buried it at the dig location.  Merrin shows up to find spooked out workers, a priest from the Vatican (James D'Arcy), and a bunch of crazy people that seem to be affected by, well, the devil!

Oh, that devil.

Merrin is played by Max von Sydow in the 1973 version of "The Exorcist", so one thing you know coming in is that he learns in "The Beginning" what takes him to further his exorcism practices in later years.  Skarsgård is a good choice for the role, and even though I imagine he knew signing on that this wouldn't be an Oscar-winning classic, he gives it his all and goes about his business like the true professional he is.  The story in "The Beginning" isn't stellar, and the film seems to run nearly forever (nearly 120 minutes for a horror film?) before finally giving us the exorcism that we came to see in the first place.  Like I said, there are a couple of good spooks in "The Beginning"...but mainly, this film is just nasty!

Nasty, like the sheer amount of bloodletting, or the carnage footage at varying points, or the skin condition of the dig leader (played by Alan Ford, from "Snatch"), or watching those hyenas...whoa.  Now, coming from Renny Harlin, one of the masters--along with, maybe, Paul Verhoeven--of the gratuitously violent flicks "Die Hard 2", "The Long Kiss Goodnight" and "Cliffhanger", this is not a big surprise.  But some of these kills are nasty!

This year, sadly, hasn't been as horror-happy as last year, when it seemed like the swell of scare flicks hit an apex.  But, we've got a few coming up in the weeks ahead, especially near Halloween, so hopefully "Exorcist: The Beginning" is something we can build on as the year comes to a close.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09