Owen Gleiberman
August 11, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Exorcist: The Beginning

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
114 minutes
Wide Release Date
08/20/04
performer
Gabriel Mann, Stellan Skarsgard, Israel Aduramo, Ralph Brown
director
Paul Schrader
distributor
Warner Bros.
author
William Wisher Jr.
genre
Mystery and Thriller, Horror

We gave it a C-

If Paul Schrader?s prequel to ”The Exorcist,” which was shot and edited only to be shelved by studio executives, is ever released on DVD, it will be intriguing to see if there could be even less going on in it than there is in Renny Harlin?s Exorcist: The Beginning. Set at an archaeological dig in Cairo in 1949, the new movie is a dusty piñata stuffed with omens and not much more. They include the following: flies, moths, bats, crows, hyenas, Beezlebub sculptures, a big Beezlebub statue, a baby covered in maggots (that one?s a goodie), an apocalyptic sandstorm, and a man cursed with wretched skin. Will the audience glimpse the devil in these details? The power of Renny Harlin?s crassness compels you!

Stellan Skarsgard has the gravity, and hairline, to play a younger Max von Sydow, but his Father Merrin — I mean, Mr. Merrin, a former priest who?s lost his faith — keeps flashing back to episodes with the Nazis, so that the movie can turn into a solemnly underbaked ”Merrin?s Choice.” The original ”Exorcist” verged on being demonic child porn. This ”Beginning” simply feels as if it has no end.

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