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Exorcist: The Beginning... surprise!

Posted: Sat Aug 21, 2004 6:29 pm
by Remo D
After the history behind this one, the track record of such projects and the essentially miserable filmgoing year that has been 2004 to date, I truly expected to hate EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING.

It got off to a rather slow and ponderous start, and I was sharpening my knives. The first truly shocking scene was hampered just a tad by looking a bit too "computery" (I couldn't care less about CGI turning up in a MUMMY or some such monster movie, but an EXORCIST film frightens you by making evil look completely convincing in a recognizable setting--once you throw the computer switch, you've put a bit of a wall between us, sorry. However, the scene in question was undeniably vicious, daring and disturbing. Shall I say which scene? Well...

While I still want to see Paul Schrader's version, I've got to hand it to Renny Harlin for following the first punch up with some undeniably well-built shocks and some consistently disturbing themes (ever see SOPHIE'S CHOICE? This one hits a similar nerve in a flashback that's really going to chap a few hides).

The theme of the desecrated (and, this time, buried) church carries over well from the original--as does the presence of evil as a human quality. Tensions between an African tribe and the British Army are well played and have a truly hellish payoff by the end of the film--and while you "gotta" have a Catholic exorcism SOMEWHERE in the film, there's a more primitive rite attempted at one point... and the results are likely to hold your attention.

Stellan Starsgard--well, this is the second time he's been asked to interpret this role, but his casting as the younger Lancaster Merrin was perfect--you can just see him waiting to age into Max Von Sydow, and his performance is well-tuned to the character.

I have no doubt that they're still going to take a bath on this EXORCIST prequel imbroglio--and neither version of the film will ever reach the heights of the original. In fact, I get the impression that most people are going to rip the Renny Harlin version to shreds at the very least. But I won't be one of them--I thought this was well-thought out, skillfully played and... surprise, surprise... genuinely creepy at times. As scary as the original? Not on your life. But it beat the odds this year anyway, and I'm glad I saw it.

Posted: Sat Aug 21, 2004 9:10 pm
by stypees back
Thanks for the review. I thought I was the only person on the planet that was excited about this cheese - I can't get anyone to see this film with me. As much as I hate Renny Harlin (let's face it, he's made two great films in his career) I still have that curiousty. Every reviewer thus far has panned it but it's still fun and nothing can be as bad as EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, I heard the script was actually good for that one but Boormen messed it up.

I look forward to seeing this one - ALONE!

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2004 9:55 am
by FOG
Remo??? What???

The last fifteen minutes alone of this movie bring it down to the level of SUCKING COMPLETELY.

The movie did have some cool ideas, but they were wasted for the most part, as there wasn't even a remotely clear script idea tying half these images together. Speaking of images, though, where did those horrible CGI effects come from?? 1992???

The overall direction of the movie reminded me of Battlefield Earth. Everyting looks really dull, and cartoony and setlike, and too many crazy shots distracted and prevented me from getting into the story. And speaking of STORIES -


how could anyone go for that ridiculous plot twist at the end?!?!? It's the nurse??? that was one of the crappiest ideas I've ever seen on screen. I really do think they thought turning it to a girl and making her look like Reagan would help this pile out by barely tying it to the first movie. Good job with that too - stone head getting buried under sand, trenchcoat and hat at the end - I was so proud of myself for linking those things to the original. Pure genius.

Overall, I can't really justify wasting this much space on this steaming piece. The smart thing to do would be to admit they made a mistake and just release the Schrader version, cause there is no way it was worse than this crap.

For real, man, the end was like Re-Reposessed. What a JOKE this movie was. Worse than I could've imagined it would be. House of the Dead is fine because it's based on a cheesy and stupid videogame. This is horrible because it's based on a GREAT film, and, so I've heard, a fine book.

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:28 am
by shawn
Originally posted by FOG
Remo??? What???

The last fifteen minutes alone of this movie bring it down to the level of SUCKING COMPLETELY.

Thanks Fog... For a minute I thought Remo saw a different movie. This is one of the worst films I have ever seen... Just a fucking mess. It never knows where its going, and it never actually gets there. And the CGI is the worst... CRAP.

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2004 12:24 pm
by Remo D
CGI... agreed.

Last fifteen minutes the least effective business... agreed.


Having hyenas shred a young boy to pieces? Worked for me.

The flashback--still disturbing.

The husband who sold his family out to the Nazis--and who he turned out to be--a well-scripted theme, and a decent explanation as to why he wanted what he wanted.

The father apologizing to his ailing son before turning him over to the tribal ritual... the explanation of the "plague" cover-up... the climactic "doesn't matter who's killing whom" massacre... all came from the script, the performances and the characters--there were also ties (not perfect ties, but ties nonetheless) to the original material that showed more thought than usual. The special effects were secondary (and, as I already agreed,
occasionally second-rate).

See above--I correctly predicted that most people (present company included) would rip this film to shreds. If you think I elevated it to perfection, you misunderstood--the flaws are there, and they can't be ignored. The way it worked for me... well, perhaps it was only for me. (You might check the San Francisco Chronicle review, though--it's awfully close to what I might have said, and it's NOT Mick LaSalle, either).

But I'm not about to disguise my reactions to anything to fit in with anyone, so no apologies for my takes on E:TB or OPEN WATER. I think they're both significantly better films than GODSEND, THE VILLAGE and ALIEN VS. PREDATOR.

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2004 3:15 pm
by FOG
I agree, for the most part, with that review in the San Francisco chronicle, though I still say 3rd of the movie bringing it down to the completely AWFUL level, not just "mediocre".

It's just another example of pretty good ideas lost somewhere in a regular ol' mess. I feel the same way about the Dawn of the Dead remake, though that movie was nowhere near the level of shittiness this movie achieved.

And, I'm sorry man, but the effects were terrible. The hyenas might have been cool, had they been updated from super nintendo graphics to today's standards.

How much inexcusably fake steam, smoke, and breath can a man take before getting angry about wasting his money on garbage that could've been so much better?

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:13 pm
by Remo D
How much inexcusably fake steam, smoke, and breath can a man take before getting angry about wasting his money on garbage that could've been so much better?

Over the course of a year, or over the course of a lifetime? I've been doing year-by-year reviews here for some time now, and the only way I think I can call movies fairly is by comparing them to their present company... or even their recent company.

In a nearly inexcusable year, this one stood out as something better for me. In a year like 1999 (still the best of recent years in my book), it wouldn't have stood particularly high in the crowd.

But let's be fair--it's ridiculous to compare an EXORCIST film to ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, CATWOMAN, THE VILLAGE or GODSEND. Lately, the films I've been sticking up for (against the popular grain) have been along the lines of HULK and LXG. Heck, I even had some kind words for HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, all things considered. As far as truly awful films go, I think it bears repeating: HOUSE OF THE DEAD remains the single worst film I ever saw on the big screen in my entire LIFE.

Religious horror films haven't had a great track record, even for someone as forgiving as I like to think I am. So let's look back over the past few years. You get such gems as LOST SOULS, STIGMATA, END OF DAYS and THE ORDER. Standing out among the crowd? Why, none other than the re-release of THE EXORCIST.

So, in that admittedly dubious company, EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING offered something I couldn't find elsewhere--an intelligent script (to me)--not afraid to combine religious mythology with human evil in a way that demands that you ponder as seriously as you watch.

Too bad they had to make the film twice. Too bad they had to rely on some crappy CGI stuff. Too bad they felt compelled to restage something that they thought resembled the first film in the last fifteen minutes. Perfection impossible. Second-best status at the very least. My favorite EXORCIST sequel remains III (which should just have been called LEGION, and which should never have been screwed with after Blatty made it the first time).

But EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING still has something for me. And it has something sorely lacking in almost everything else I've seen this year. And it has something missing from every religious horror film I've seen since the original PROPHECY (GOD'S ARMY).

If I told you that the film simply blew goats in my eyes, or that it was a misbegotten project without a shred of value in it... well, I'd be lying. I thought for sure that I'd like the Shyamalan film better, considering his track record. I thought that GODSEND had a premise you'd have to TRY to screw up. And I thought that I'd simply hate E:TB. And I was wrong on all three counts. Perhaps I've lost it--but that's not up to me to determine. And I gave up justifying blowing money on movies a LONG time ago--ever since I decided that I'd be the one diehard completist that gave everything a fair shake. My ticket is the one that the horror producer can count on--as long as he can get it to play in my area. Death or hopeless insanity are the only things that will stop me. In the meantime, come late December, you'll find OPEN WATER and EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING on the higher part of my list--but we'll still all be friends.

Posted: Fri Aug 27, 2004 2:59 pm
by stypees back
I finally experienced this piece of shit at a matinee today. I seriously think the so-called "Exorcist curse" that the E! True Hollywood Special so proudly claims had struck me hard. I'll explain that bit later..

What the fuck where they thinking? That's my question. It was so painfully evident that the "screenwriters" (you know there was more than just one) were just tossing ideas and writing them down without giving the FINAL DRAFT a second look. The film has this moments that just linger and what really pissed me off was that it relied so much on sound effects for scares. If you didn't or don't see this in a DTS theatre, your not going to jump (as many critics, who hated the film, claimed did happen) out of your seat. Sure, the original didn't have the technology we have today to create those sounds but for cry in out loud (no pun intended) what a cheap cop out.

This film desperatly needed to be cut down to an hour and a half. It had no reason to run a little over two hours. The silly subplots where outlandish, unsympathtic and not at all believable. The "Nazi" theme made no sense and didn't explain any true reason as to why Father Merran lost his faith (aside from that absurd kid flashback).

When we hit the confrontation it just stalls and it feels and looks so freaking silly. The make up effects were absurd and when the infamous demon is cast out there was no reason for what happen when the "possessed" hit the ground.

That set up for another sequel was even worse and yes the CGI is crap. Twice as bad as that freaking shark movie he directed (which if you look at the script, wasn't bad, it just went into the wrong hands) and that leads me to the infamous question.. WHY ON EARTH DO THEY LET RENNY HARLIN MAKE MOVIES?

I'm willing to be that the Schrader version was far superior than this piece of crap. It more than likely worked on a more cerebral level than a "scary one". Mainstream audiences don't like to think, they have to have everything handed to them on a silver platter. Much like watching a HARRY POTTER MOVIE, everything has to be constantly explained.

I cannot forgive this piece of shit. I want my 5.75 back.

-I Forgot about the "Exorcist Curse"

After the film I had a few errands I had to run. On the drive my car started acting up, lights started flickering, that type of shit. I knew what the problem was and just prayed I could get it to the mechanic on time (fucking catylitic converter again, third time!) before it stopped. What was really creepy was my "anti-lock brake" light stayed on and just illuminated this orange glow as if I was going to crash into something. I made it to the mechanic but it doesn't look like I'll have a car this weekend (last time this happened they said I had a warranty on the fucker, they better not be jacking me off) I just assumed I was "cursed", it hasn't exactly been a great month for myself or my family. This just topped it off.

Posted: Fri Aug 27, 2004 3:32 pm
by Clark Chaos
Outside of Shrader's performance which is the only thing good about this film.

It lacks any intensity and has some of the worst rip offs ever.

The end with the demon chick was right out of Evil Dead and fell completely short.

Maybe the DVD will be better when they piece in all the material that was cut out or at least I hope the do.

I asked for the 2 hrs of my life back on this one.


Posted: Fri Aug 27, 2004 11:36 pm
by Hail Karen
I had some hopes for this one but I knew of the obvious letdown capability. I think I'll wait and rent it.....