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Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) Well, it's taken me a long time to catch up to this one. Warner Brothers actually made TWO "Exorcist" prequels in the mid-2000's, and the first one (actually released second!), directed by Paul Schrader, was deemed "too talky" for today's audiences, so the studio commissioned another version to be made by director Renny Harlin with the exact same cast and story! Talk about a bizarre situation to begin with---and adding to the confusion, they ended up releasing BOTH versions. I remember reading about this situation with great interest, although quite honestly, neither movie sounded like a "must see" by any means. The storyline deals with a younger Father Merrin (the older priest who had a heart attack in the original EXORCIST while trying to rid Regan of the demon) and his adventures in the late 1940's. He's a man who has given up the cloth and lost his faith due to an incident involving Nazis where he was forced to choose who would die in a concentration camp. Now Merrin looks and acts like a low-rent Indiana Jones, galloping across the globe to extract religious artifacts (even though he's no longer a believer in any of them). A pristine church has been uncovered underground in Kenya, and Mr. Merrin is sent to investigate. Madness descends the villagers and the British army overseeing the operation. Death, self-mutilation, and murder by fake-looking CGI wolves follow. Is there an evil force being released by excavating this church? Is it the same demon that later confronts Merrin in the original EXORCIST? These are the questions that propel the movie and of course, we as viewers know the answer—check YES for all. EXORCIST: The Beginning is visually interesting but even with all the modern day "jump scares" that Harlin adds, it still feels very bogged down and slow. The underground church set is interesting but after seeing everything a few times, it gets routine. I actually kept waiting for some Indiana Jones style action to liven things up, that definitely would've helped the proceedings. Merrin has a mild "love interest" with the Kenya doctor on-site, and inexplicably, she becomes possessed by the church's demon and has an underground showdown with him in the end. By this point, I was struggling to stay awake with the proceedings, but the lady demon, looking all hot, sexy, white-faced and Linda Blaired-out, definitely woke me up! I guess the studio mandated that Merrin must confront another demonically possessed chick, but…compared to the original EXORCIST, this showdown becomes weak and routine. And downright silly. Merrin regains his faith, grabs his tools of exorcism, and has a showdown with the possessed doctor. It kind of drags on and on until the demon is cast out, not to give away any spoilers here. And then the movie ends. Although visually nice to look at with decent acting from the leads, EXORCIST: The Beginning still can't overcome the fact that the story is so weak and unnecessary to begin with that it was much scarier just briefly HEARING about Merrin's confrontation with the demon in the original 1973 movie than it is actually SEEING the events played out with all of today's movie bells and whistles.

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