Exorcist: The Beginning is one of two unnecessary prequels to The Exorcist. It seems no Exorcist movie can escape production difficulties, but this is the strangest case yet. Exorcist: The Beginning is actually a retooled version of an already completed prequel called Dominion. I somehow missed hearing about the prequels when I was younger, but I was no less confused when I did learn about them. When the much more psychological Dominion failed to win over the studio, director Renny Harlin shot The Beginning instead.
This version was clearly only made to fulfill the studios need for excessive gore and an ending that desperately tries to recapture the original movie’s possession. It’s a shame, because Stellan Skarsgård looks a lot like a younger Max von Sydow. The Beginning sort of follows the first exorcism performed by Father Lankester Merrin in 1940’s Africa. The archaeological dig was never my favorite part of The Exorcist, so an entire movie centered around one is gonna feel dull regardless.
The main problem is how reliant they are on grotesque and/or upsetting imagery. Something the original film used sparingly. As a Christian, upside down crucifixes made me the most uncomfortable. Just like every single movie in the franchise, Merrin is now the one struggling with his faith. Even though we know he’s gonna become the Exorcist by the end. The weight of his journey is wasted on an over-the-top ending that should’ve been a possessed African boy, but ended up being former Bond girl Izabella Scorupco made to look like Regan MacNeil instead. The unfocused prequel also includes occasional flashbacks in World War II. Exorcist: The Beginning is an unholy mess.
Followed by: The Exorcist