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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette - Behind The Scenes
  • Animated menus
  • Dolby Digital trailer - Train

Exorcist - The Beginning

Warner Bros./Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 109 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Its film's like this that reinforces the little faith I have left in the Hollywood studio system, and what they think audiences want. This Exorcist: The Beginning is now part of the same ilk that gets touted as "One of the most expensive flops!” Not only that, the film was made twice with Warner Bros. & Morgan Creek settling on this version helmed by action film enfant terrible, Renny Harlin. Paul Schrader made the film initially as a cerebral horror film instead of a traditional gore-fest that the studios were aiming for. When he turned the film in completed, the studios balked at what they saw and demanded that it be re-shot. Exit Mr. Schrader, enter Mr. Harlin. After blowing $30,000,000 on the first version the backers spent a further $40,000,000 to have it re-shot. Rumour has it that 70-90% of the film was redone. $70,000,000 all up! And after watching this film you have to wonder who is in charge of these studios? And is there a curse on the Exorcist sequels? Because none of them have been any damn good!

The story of Exorcist: The Beginning is about the wilderness years of Father Lancaster Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) after falling off the divine wagon due to the atrocities he witnessed during World War II in Nazi Europe. With nothing better for an ex-priest to do Merrin turns into a borderline alcoholic. After receiving some strange news from his old honcho's he is then dispatched to a village in Turkana, Africa where a church has been discovered buried in the desert which pre-dates Christianity's arrival there. Since the revelation in the desert, strange things have been happening to the local tribesman neighbouring the site of the excavated Church. This is my first gripe with the film. Why would he care about some Church being discovered if he had lost his faith, given that he doesn't appear to be in a hurry to look for it during the opening sequences of the film. I hardly think on old Church is going to set him straight again.

Apparently the original archaeologist who uncovered the Church has gone slightly nutty, leaving Merrin with a few clues as to what he may have seen in the Church and what sent him over the edge. Merrin investigates with a young priest in-tow who seems to grasp pretty quickly that Lucifer is at work here after two local kids get attacked by some truly awful looking CG Hyenas. Not to mention the other strange goings on within the village. And this is where this film falls apart rapidly as Merrin spends nearly three quarters of the film stumbling around refusing to believe Lucifer is afoot and that nobody has been or is possessed. Even after witnessing some pretty strange occurrences, Merrin just brushes them off without a word. Instead he is more intent on bedding down a young lady doctor in the village and getting on the drink again. Or has she been sent by the devil to tempt him?

It isn't until the film's final act that Merrin realises that the devil is at work here, and that the site of the buried Church is where Lucifer fell from Heaven. The climax features one of the most ludicrous action scenes ever staged on film between the British Army, and the uprising village locals and a very unimaginative sucker punch twist in the story as Father Merrin steps up to the plate and suits up to face the devil! Now anyone who has seen the original Exorcist or its sequels will be aware that somebody is a) Going to be possessed and b) exorcised! I just don't understand why it took so long for these two basic plot devices to be accepted by the main character. Instead Mr. Harlin seemed more intent on delivering clichéd Hollywood chills and thrills. Well at least the studios got what they wanted in the end I guess.

  Video
Contract

The feature is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16:9 Enhanced. The film has a sepia tone to help signify the period in which it is set, and also to help define the arid conditions of the African desert. The transfer is another solid release from Roadshow displaying plenty of detail, and is free from artefacts. Shadow detail is well defined and the black levels are handled well, a must for a film that spends a good portion of its time in the dark.

  Audio
Contract

The only audio option for the feature is a reasonable Dolby Digital 5.1 track, with our release abandoning the DTS track found on the region 1 disc. Dialogue is clear and well defined. A reasonable soundstage is created with plenty of localised effects fed to the surrounds, and plenty of bass sent to the subwoofer to help nail some of the scares and beef up the score. Unfortunately I found the score pretty ordinary, featuring some very stock standard clichéd segments to augment the scares and action on screen. Ultimately feeling tacked on, rather than an organic part of the film.

  Extras
Contract

A very small collection of extras make up the features of this DVD beginning with an 8 minute Behind The Scenes redundant EPK that is a touch self indulgent; all the actors slapping each other on the back and Renny Harlin giving them all a big thumbs up.

Harlin himself then spends a good portion of the audio commentary in "Damage Control" mode; he does his best to a put a spin on what is essentially a poor film. Whilst Renny is still proud of what he has made, you get the feeling he may have been out of his element with this type of film. Not surprisingly he does not mention the controversy regarding the re-shoot of the film that got him the job to begin with

Finally, rounding out this under whelming bunch of extras is probably the most interesting piece, the Theatrical trailer, which surprisingly consists of footage from Paul Schrader’s version of Exorcist: The Beginning. Not much is given to compare it to the train wreck Renny Harlin dished out here, but I’ll give it a chance when it’s released. At least one Exorcist Prequel or Sequel has got to be decent!

  Overall  
Contract

There is a ray of hope at the end of this though. Apparently the studios have decided to release Paul Schrader's version of the film in a limited theatrical run, ending in a DVD release later this year. I look forward to this version and hope that it is substantially better than what we have at the moment. The release of this DVD would have been better if we had the two versions of the film to compare. And with what little extras on offer here, we are in "Rental Only" country for this release. As I wouldn't put it pass the studios to serve up a Collectors Edition featuring both films to cash in on the eventual release of the other version in the future.


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      And I quote...
    "A decent presentation of a very ordinary film"
    - Anthony Bethell
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS780
    • Projector:
          Infocus 4805 DLP Projector
    • Screen:
          LP Morgan Galleria 95" 16:9 fixed screen
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB795
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MF650HM
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony CR550HM
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-550HM
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WM500M
    • Audio Cables:
          MaxCable Optical
    • Video Cables:
          MaxCable Component
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