Exorcist The Beginning Review

by Susan Granger (ssg722 AT aol DOT com)
August 30th, 2004

Susan Granger's review of "Exorcist: The Beginning" (Warner Bros.)
    Never underestimate the box-office appeal of a boring horror film. This ponderous prequel to the 1973 blockbuster "The Exorcist" stars Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard as Father Lancaster Merrin, the cleric originally played by Max Von Sydow, in his first encounter with the devil.
    It's 1949 and Father Merrin has given up the priesthood after the Nazi atrocities of World War II. In Cairo, earning money as an archeologist, he's offered a spot on a dig in Kenya by a mysterious antiquities dealer (Ben Cross). It seems the British have unearthed a Christian church built years before Christianity came to sub-Saharan Africa. Accompanied by a Vatican spy (James D'Arcy), Merrin discovers that the superstitious villagers are tormented by an invisible presence that's believed to dwell in the ancient church. So he joins up with a Sarah (Izabella Scorupco), a beautiful doctor, to delve into the ludicrous mystery which is compounded by a replica of the crucifixion hanging upside down and murals of a massacre. Could this be where Lucifer fell? Whatever. But Merrin repeatedly screams, "The power of Christ compels you!" Originally, Liam Neeson was cast as Merrin but he left the project after director John Frankenheimer died during pre-production. Stellan Skarsgard then shot Alexi Hawley's story with director Paul Shrader, whose version was shelved because it was not scary enough. A third director, Renny Harlin, then came onboard and filmed it again with Skarsgard gamely revising his performance which is deliberately underscored with sinister mood music. But there's no excuse for the unconvincing CGI hyenas, jackals and ravens. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Exorcist: The Beginning" is a gory, ponderous 3, making it tough to keep the faith.

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