Exorcist: The Beginning creates an aura of dread more
akin to video footage of Bush speaking on “partial-birth
abortion” than William Friedkin’s 1973
film (incidentally the same year Roe v. Wade was decided).
It’s a kind of apocalyptic malaise mixed with embarrassment
and confusion that forces us to ask ourselves the dark question
of our day: When the hell did we get so stupid?
It edges on the gross side of scary, and this adds insult to injury—in
one part a Nairobi woman (eew—a savage!) gives birth to a
still-born baby crawling with maggots. Paradoxically, the sets are
well-stocked with cute monkeys, a hallmark of any bad film. In my
opinion, though, the bloodthirsty, computerized hyenas really take
the cake. That’s right, folks, hyenas. And not a damn one
is voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
This movie isn’t “awesomely bad” or “so-bad-it’s-good.”
It’s simply unbearable. This Exorcist is a love story,
a typical tale of Voluptuous Holocaust-Survivor-Chick meets Ex-Priest.
And it is also a historical fiction adventure. Did you know that
during that big World War those nasty Nazis acted so mean because
the devil made ’em do it? So much for the banality of evil.
Or maybe this movie is a perfect example of what old Hannah
was talking about. So little thought to the big picture, such slavish
adherence to cliché and cheap sentimentality, such loose
logic. A big bureaucratic brew-ha-ha. I’m referring not to
the story within the movie—trust me, there isn’t one—but
to tumultuous story of the filming itself. It’s a tale of
greed, disposal, and above all, following orders.
Paul Schrader, who wrote Taxi Driver
and Raging Bull and recently directed Auto Focus,
directed this movie—although it isn’t the one you’ll
see in theaters. Schrader was fired after shooting. His version
of the film, which he describes as a “character-driven period
drama,” was rejected by the studio. “Morgan Creek wanted
gore,” sources told Page Six of the New York Post
on 8/25/03, “They think that will sell.” So Morgan Creek
hired Renny Harlin, director of Nightmare On
Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
Harlin re-shot almost every frame of the film and came up with the
vile piece of crap now in theatres. Schrader signed a “non-disparagement
clause” with Morgan Creek, which means he has to leave the
shit-talking to us critics, but he hopes that Morgan Creek will
give him permission to release his version on DVD at some point.
To find out more, read this
entertaining interview from The Guardian with Paul Schrader.
And about Renny Harlin—don’t say you weren’t warned.