Exorcist: The Beginning (Region 1 Edition)

Starring: Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco and James D'arcy
Warner Home Video
RRP: $27.95
Certificate: R - Restricted
Available 01 March 2005

When an ancient religious artifact is discovered former priest turned archeologist, Mr Merrin, is invited to Kenya to see a church which is being uncovered from the earth. It predates Christianity by a thousand years. Going in through the roof Merrin finds an unholy shrine of desecration. A huge inverted Christ on the cross, stone carvings of demons, and paintings depicting the war in heaven adorn the place. Merrin and the excavators have awakened an ancient evil which preceeds to sweep through the local peoples, attacking and possessing. As the plague begins to hit violence erupts between the local Kenyans and a contingent of the British army which is brought in to enforce order. Something is manipulating events. Merrin needs to regain his faith (lost witnessing atrocities in Nazi death camps) and take on the demon in its own territory, the very place where Lucifer fell to Earth...

This film received some bad press upon its cinematic release. In some ways it was justified, but it's not all bad news. The biggest mistake made here is to associate this offering with The Exorcist, an all-time movie classic and one of the most perfectly constructed pieces in film history. It will never be improved upon, and so the only true reason for giving this work the Exorcist name is to garner publicity through the original. But whether that proves successful or not, immediately afterward the film is inevitably going to be compared with the Blatty/Friedkin masterpiece and fall flat on its face.

As a film in its own right it's pretty good (certainly upward of average). There are some nice uses of light and shadow, and the art and design should be commended. However, having the possessed female doctor looking just like Linda Blair on a bad make-up day simply stinks of plagiarism. Wouldn't the demon look different each time, depending on whose facial features it was using.

Also, although over-the-top hysterical moments in horror films often come across as being false, the young Merrin here not only registers no emotion of any kind but never even raises his voice above a murmer. I tend to like the Master of Lies and Lord of the Flies (corruption) aspects of the devil in fiction. Isn't the idea of someone being manipulated and lied to more frightening than the expected buckets of blood we get here? This is true because we know in everyday life how our actions are decided by the information we are given around us.

Special features include a commentary by director Renny Harlin, written information on the cast and crew, a theatrical trailer, and a short (8 minute) behind the scenes featurette.

Forget the so-called connection to The Exorcist and you'll find that you enjoy it more sans mental barriers.

Ty Power

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$20.96 (Amazon.com)
Widescreen - Region 1 Edition
£11.49 (Amazon.co.uk)
Widescreen - Region 1 Edition


£11.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
Region 2 Edition

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