Exorcist: The Beginning on DVD
The prequel to the scariest movie ever made is
unfortunately not all that terrifying.
Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) has given up on his faith. He
joins a British archeological excavation in Kenya, where strange things are
happening. A Christian Byzantine church has been discovered, perfectly
preserved, under the ground. The strangest part yet is that it appears to have
been buried purposefully on the very day it was completed.
That would be reason enough for most people to start walking in
the opposite direction. But this is a horror movie
A team descends into the church. Beneath the church they find
something horrific. Madness descends upon the villagers and soldiers. Father
Merrin witnesses atrocities he hoped hed never have to witness again. And
it appears that a young local boy, Joseph, may be possessed by the devil.
Father Merrin may need more than just his faith to come out on top of this
If the fact that horror sequels (or prequels) are rarely good
isnt enough, perhaps the fact that the film was directed by Renny Harlin
(who is not known for his classics) will sufficiently prepare you for the
worst. But you will probably be surprised to learn that Exorcist: The Beginning
is not as bad as youve undoubtedly heard.
The tone of the film is bang on. Bright and early we get a creepy
vibe as thousands of people are seen being crucified upside down (were
not sure what the relevance of that is, but it sure does set the mood!). We
know that the movie has to do with possession, which is scary enough on its
own, but to watch the evil doings of the evildoers will surely cause a shiver
down the spine. Exorcist: The Beginning moves very slowly (and appropriately
so), building and building and holding off on the inevitable
appearance of the devil until the last possible second.
But by that time youve lost interest. As well as it starts,
the film takes a few wrong turns in the form of pure, gross-out horror. Movies
such as this need to rely on psychological terror to scare the audience, like
the original Exorcist did thirty years ago. Renny Harlin ixnays anything
psychological and prefers to throw the horror right in your face. Theres
a short scene in which a baby is born, and visually its handled as well
as can be expected, but the fact that it ceases to be creepy and comes off as
unnecessarily disgusting hinders it more than it can handle. Not to mention the
fact that the whole scene is completely arbitrary.
Even when the dark lord does show up, its not scary. Having
never met the guy, its hard to say just how frightening he is face to
face (or face to hosts face), but such a chap would probably use more
than just a devilish voice on his suspecting victims.
Maybe its easier (and more fun) to nitpick at a movies
flaws, but the Exorcist prequel isn't really all bad, just misguided. Its
a lot better than much of the schlock that comes out of Hollywood these days
(The Grudge anyone?); but it just never clicks and relies on the wrong kind of
Still, its worth watching to appease curiosity, and if
youre like this reviewer and never really cared for the original Exorcist
in the first place, you probably wont care nearly as much about its
It was originally announced that Warner Bros. would release a DVD
featuring not only this version of the film, but also Paul Schraders
completed version. Evidently, they werent talking about this DVD. In
fact, theres not a single mention of the alternate version anywhere to be
found here, but the presentation is pretty good nonetheless.
Picture quality on the disc is excellent. Its a pretty dark
film, but the occasional colors show up well, and detail is always perfectly
visible. Bits like bad lighting hinder the picture, but its no fault of
those involved in the DVD. Fleshtones are done well, and there are never any
halos around the actors.
Audio, available in Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 tracks, is pretty
good too. Dialogue is as clear as invisibility, with music and sound effects
meshing nicely, although there isnt a lot of surround use. A film like
this could use subtle sound effects and the rear channels to scare the heck out
of people, but the back of the room is oddly silent. The subwoofer gets a good
workout in a few scenes, and its neither too much nor too little.
Renny Harlins audio commentary is a disappointment. There
are gaps of silence throughout, and he doesnt so much as mention the
alternate Paul Schrader version. Perhaps its asking a lot of a filmmaker
to discuss someone elses film during his own commentary, but how this
version came to be would be quite a story, and one would benefit from such a
perspective. The eight-minute making-of featurette doesnt shed any more
light on the subject, and is more fluff than anything else. Also included is
the theatrical trailer.
Exorcist: The Beginning, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
113 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital &
Starring Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco, James
Produced by James G. Robinson
Screenplay by Alexi Hawley,
Directed by Renny Harlin
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