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PCR # 231  (Vol. 5, No. 35)  This edition is for the week of August 23--29, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Exorcist: The Beginning"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

One star

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

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Warner Brothers     
Starring: Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco, James D'Arcy and Ben Cross
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 54 mins

Some quick history: In 1973, "The Exorcist" hit theatre screens among stories of people fainting in the aisles because it was so intense. 1977 saw a well-intentioned, but poorly-received sequel, "Exorcist II: The Heretic." Even a great director like John Boorman couldn't make Richard Burton and tons of locusts very frightening. In 1990, we got "Exorcist III," which was Exorcist in title only. Based on another great novel by William Peter Blatty, "Legion," film # 3 gave us George C. Scott in all of his raging glory. This brings us to film # 4. Or actually film # 4-A. Director Paul Schrader ("Cat People," "Auto Focus") turned in his version to Warner Brothers last year. Schrader claimed it was more "intense," like the original. Unfortunately, this being the generation of Freddy Kruger and Jason and Michael Myers and all of the other slasher movie characters, the producers deemed the film "not bloody" enough. They decided to hire a new director, call back the cast, add some new characters, cut some old ones and reshoot the entire movie. The result is indeed horrifying. Horrifyingly bad!

It's 1949. Lancaster Merrin (Skarsgard) has been summoned to Cairo to investigate the discovery of a church which dates 1500 years before it should have existed. Once a priest, an event from his past has caused Merrin to lose his faith. However, he is still a recognized expert and thus answers the call. He is escorted to your typical "B" movie archeological site: lots of dust and natives and the stereotypical boss who hates both. Merrin quickly befriends the pretty doctor with a past (Scorupco) as well as the cutest child in the village. Need I tell you which two people out of the entire population of Cairo have a run in with the demons? Every 20 minutes or so, Merrin flashes back to Nazi era Germany. It is there that he has suffered his loss of faith, though with each flashback we begin to understand why. Unfortunately, this is the most intriguing part of the film. By the time the demons show up you almost welcome the needless, but I'm sure producer pleasing, bloody battle between the locals and the British army, who show up 45 minutes into the film, apparently so they will be on hand for the bloodshed.

Whoever thought about having the director of "Die Hard 2" make this movie should be banned from ever making movies again. This is not the film that needs an action director. I'm assuming it's the same guy who hired Ang Lee to make "Hulk." The special effects are bottom of the barrel. Special mention must be made of the terrible packs of CGI hyenas that show up to either snarl (badly) or haul off the occasional unlucky child. If there is a positive to be noted, it is the performance of Skarsgard. You can sense his inner battles as he struggles with his decisions. I would have liked to see more of his past. When the reasons for his loss of faith are revealed (he is forced into making a "Sophie's Choice" type of decision) you understand his reasonings. "God is not here today, Priest," he is told. And as much as he hates to, he must agree.

Warner Brothers has stated that when "Exorcist: The Beginning" is released on DVD they will also include the Paul Schrader version for us to compare. I can't imagine it being any worse then this one. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Exorcist: The Beginning"  One star

This week's movie review of "Exorcist: The Beginning" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.