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Exorcist: The Beginning

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  Exorcist: The Beginning Review
Tookey's Rating
2 /10
Average Rating
2.67 /10
Stellan Skarsgard , Izabella Scorupco, James D'Arcy
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Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Alexi Hawley

Released: 2004
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 115

Exorcist: The Beginning is notable only for a sterling performance by Stellan Starsgaard (pictured) as a lapsed Catholic priest turned archaeologist who rediscovers his faith fighting the Devil in a Byzantine church discovered, bizarrely, beneath the sands of Kenya.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Some films seem cursed from the outset, and this one has killed off one director (John Frankenheimer), got another one fired (Paul Schrader, sacked for making the movie insufficiently scary), and is just about to ruin the reputation of a third. Renny Harlin has given us such enjoyably trashy movies as Deep Blue Sea, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Cliffhanger; but his shock tactics here are clumsy and unoriginal. He seems to expect us to get some perverted kick out of seeing a cute little girl being shot in the head, and a little black boy being torn limb from limb by hyenas. Though not as hopeless as The Exorcist II, itís nasty and unpleasant without being even a tiny bit frightening.

Although predictable and silly, isnít that bad.
(Peter Bradshaw, Guardian)
This is not horror. It's sadism.
(David Germain)
It's not despicable. It is merely boring. Way too much time is spent on mumbo jumbo and contrived history. We want to get to the exorcism and see the reborn Father Merrin take on the Devil again, with or without a pea soup shower. Not that there can be much suspense. We know Merrin will live to drive the demon out of Linda Blair in the 1973 The Exorcist. Merrin's faith-cracking run-in with Nazis is powerfully told in flashbacks, and the always terrific Skarsgard seems to carry the man's guilt and sense of betrayal on his shoulders. Polish actress and model Izabella Scorupco is lovely to look at as the village's imported white doctor - and a blessing, I would think, for a guy who's just given up his vows. But she's completely miscast. Meanwhile, we're treated to such images as the birth of a maggot-covered fetus, crows dining on a human eyeball and a native boy being ripped apart by demon dogs.
(Jack Mathews, New York Daily News)
Sloppy, confusing, and dull as a dented crucifix.
(Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle)
This long-in-the-works prequel to 1973's landmark horror film The Exorcist isn't quite the unmitigated disaster it could have beenóbut it's pretty darn close. What begins as a reasonably watchable if shamelessly derivative occult thriller gets progressively sillier as schlockmeister director Renny Harlin piles on the cheap scares and red herrings in preparation for the climactic showdown between Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) and the foul-mouthed demon. While it's marginally better than the widely reviled Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)ó what isn't? ó Exorcist: The Beginning doesn't come within green pea soup spitting distance of William Friedkin's original masterpiece, which has lost none of its visceral power to scare audiences, 31 years after its release.
(Tim Knight,
An insipid, un-scary, half-assed, $85 million prequel... By the end of the feels-way-longer-than-100 minutes, the mystery is no longer what evil lurks below the African dirt, but what movie the studio left on the shelf in order to distribute this gory mess. Rumors abound that the studio will release Schraderís first take of Exorcist: The Beginning on DVD. Maybe itís not too late for the distributors to do a little switcheroo in the theaters as well.
(Eric Meyerson,
Renny Harlin is kind of a like a poor man's Michael Bay, which is the political equivalent of saying that George W. Bush is the poor man's Dan Quayle. Basically, this means that no matter what he does, no matter what genre he happens to be in, his association with a film is apt to send shivers up and down your spine as though somebody just delivered the bad news that all your living relatives were killed in a plane crash... Apparently, now that Geena Davis has had twins, Harlin is taking his childless frustrations out on the world by torturing the little buggers in his films. What passes for sick in this film is a Nazi shooting a cute little girl in the head, a young boy possessed by the demon, and another being torn to shreds by hyenas... Exorcist: The Beginning lopes along like a rabbit with only two hind legs as Harlin struggles to deliver enough blood and gore to satisfy the studio. Ultimately, the film's big plot twist involves the brilliant Ďit's not this, but THATí swerve that could reasonably include virtually any imaginable explanation. Misfiring for roughly 100 minutes, Harlin finally decides to copy what he perceives made the first film scary, which in his mind, appears to consist entirely of the Linda Blair Halloween make-up kit.
(Mr Cranky, Mr Cranky Rates the Movies)
Largely tedium; a botch job of mistimed scare scenes, bland characters and computer-generated hyenas - alleviated only by Skarsgard, who delivers a performance much better than the material deserves. The man behind the mess is Renny Harlin, the director of the mercilessly bland CutThroat Island, who was hired to reshoot the gore-drenched moneyspinner after a first effort by Auto Focus helmer Paul Schrader was deemed dull by studio suits. So, intead of a reportedly slow-burn psychological thriller, we get a blaring, in-your-face Ďfright festí, charged with jolts so low-wattage they might just scare you to sleep.
(Nev Pierce, BBCi)
Not particularly frightening.
(Matthew Bond, Mail on Sunday)
Itís as heavy and flat-footed as Godzilla, neither scary nor theologically engaging.
(Philip French, Observer)
A complete bloody mess that seems to have taken the pea soup spewed by the originalís Satan-possessed moppet and turned it into a script... Utterly barmy and completely unscary.
(Catherine Shoard, Sunday Telegraph)
Never mind the story asking us, as before, to accept the existence of God: believing in the filmís feeble CGI work requires a leap of faith greater than I could manage.
(Edward Porter, Sunday Times)

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