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EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (R) (2004)

Morgan Creek Productions

Official Site

Director: Renny Harlin

Producers: Guy McElwaine, James G. Robinson

Written by: William Wisher, Caleb Carr, Alexi Hawley

Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Izabella Scorupco, Alan Ford

 Rating:


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.

—Leah Churner

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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