Thursday Night Movie Club
Exorcist: The Beginning
star rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: August 20, 2004
Director: Renny Harlin
Stellan Skarsgård
Izabella Scorupco
James D'Arcy
Remy Sweeney
Julian Wadham
Andrew French
Ralph Brown
Ben Cross
David Bradley
Alan Ford
Antonie Kamerling
Eddie Osei
Israel Aduramo
Patrick O'Kane
James Bellamy
Father Merrin
Dr.Sarah Novack
Father Francis
Major Granville
Sergeant Major
Father Gionetti
Lieutenant Kessel
Exorcist: The Beginning poster
Stellan Skarsgard and James D'Arcy in Exorcist: The Beginning movie poster. Exorcist: The Beginning isn't a bad movie. It's not particularly a good movie either. What it is is an interesting movie. This is the fourth movie in the Exorcist series and it is an interesting movie. It is a prequel to the events from 1973's The Exorcist.

Now the ex-Father, Merrin has devoted his life to religious archaeology. The time is post World War II, 1949 to be exact. Father Merrin has suffered an extreme situation that has caused him to lose his faith. Retold in a series of flashbacks, Merrin was forced to make a decision at the hands of the Nazis. He is fighting with a simple truth: "God is not here today."

Merrin is hired by a collector of antiquities to find a certain object located at a church in Kenya. The problem is that the church predates all records of the Church's first visit to Kenya. The mystery intrigues Merrin and he sets out on a quest. He gets more than he bargained for. The site of the dig is the exact location that is briefly shown at the beginning of the original movie. Coincidence, I think not.

A funny thing happens to Merrin during his journey. Everyone he meets addresses him as Father Merrin. Merrin is continually upset by people's refusal to let him be himself, a former/fallen priest.

But all is not well in this remote village in Kenya. Strange events are happening. Unknown illnesses beset the local inhabitants, tribesmen as well as the white "invaders".

Stellan Skarsgard in Exorcist: The Begining.Merrin is aided by Father Francis, a young priest fully secure in his faith, and Dr. Sarah Novack, who is also suffering from torment at the hands of the Nazis. As Merrin uncovers the mysteries of the village, the cause of the illness attacking the local people evades him.

Merrin finally discovers the truth. "Once a priest, always a priest"! Father Merrin regains his faith by performing his first exorcism. It is a costly affair as no good deed goes unpunished, but sacrifices have to be made.

Stellan Skarsgard is an excellent choice to portray a younger Merrin, portrayed by Max von Sydow in the original. The Swedish ancestry aside, Skarsgard is able to play the role always looking like he will turn into the elderly Merrin/von Sydow. There is no doubt that this is indeed the same person. (Imagine trying to play a young James Bond as a young Sean Connery) Skarsgard pulls it off masterfully.

Izabella Scorupco is also well cast as Dr. Sarah Novack. She shows the full range of her character, from Sarah's suffering past to her future, troubled by the fact that she doesn't know the cause for the illness plaguing young Joseph. He should not be sick and Sarah does not like the idea that she has to just wait for something to happen.

Stellan Skarsgard in Exorcist: The Begining.And happen things do (sorry for the Yoda-speak). Joseph's bed begins to move by itself. When the local villagers attempt to perform their primitive version of an exorcism, all hell breaks lose (sorry for that cliche). But Merrin begins to suspect that there is more going on here than a simple medical malady. He has found the location on Earth where Lucifer fell after being cast out after his battle in heaven.

Renny Harlin has crafted a fine movie. He made his reputation as an action director and the result here is an action movie. The film is not scary at all. It is also not particularly suspenseful. With the current influx of digital effects, the effects of the possessed soul end up looking as "been there, seen that". There is nothing ground-breaking here. The true identity of the possessed soul is revealed, it's not a shocking plot-twist. In fact, there is nothing here that is shocking. Exorcist: The Beginning is just another standard horror/action movie.