Exorcist: The Beginning - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Exorcist: The Beginning Reviews

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August 9, 2016
Slightly better than The Heretic. But not by much.
½ July 13, 2016
Exorcist: The Beginning is a prequel set before the original movie and we follow Father Merrin on his mission in Cairo, Egypt where his job is to find an object hidden in a Catholic church buried under ground, but unearthing the church also brought back an evil that's been hiding in it. The story I thought to be quite interesting and amusing, although it becomes quite ridiculous nearing the end and it's hard to focus on everything that's going on. I really liked the atmosphere of the movie which reminded me a lot of some sort of a mixture between the Raiders of the Lost Ark & The Temple of Doom. It had a cool adventure feel to it which made the movie different from the rest of the series. But, it's not scary. Sure, there's lots of blood and gore and disturbing imagery, but it's never handled that well to be effective. The only scene that got to me was the birth of a stillborn baby covered in maggots, which was more disgusting than scary, but nevertheless disturbing. Some attempts at being disturbing were actually a bit funny. There's a scene where a guy kills himself by cutting his throat with a glass shard and that should be quite disturbing, but the way it's filmed and acted out was quite a failure and it was more awkward than anything else. The direction of the movie isn't bad at all, there are some really cool shots. The acting was great. I really liked Stellan Skarsgard's performance as Father Merrin, but the kid who played Joseph was quite bad. There are scenes where it felt like he was acting in some sort of a school play, rather than a movie. Where the movie failed once more were the special effects. The CGI looks terrible. It made scenes which should've been scary, awkward. There''s a scene where two boys get attacked by hyenas and the animation is just distracting. Also, the ending is a mess. Not only does the CGI in it look awful, but the overall big fight is a bit anticlimactic. All in all, a mediocre sequel/prequel with some interesting ideas and great acting that is brought down by its ridiculous plot, distracting CGI and the overall movie not being scary.
May 28, 2016
Good solid horror movie, loads of jumps and scares and better than Dominion which was good but not really a horror. Good to see Merrions journey to the original movie. Some disturbing moments and a great soundtrack and score. Great direction and camera work. The special effects are ok and do drag it back a bit but he shock, gore and story keep this movie gripping and on message. This is the best of the two prequels.
½ February 25, 2016
Unnecessary prequel! Poor before the original.
January 11, 2016
It was rather enjoyable actually. It had action and good acting. It also had a good story line. But it wasn't scary or disturbing like the first one.
August 21, 2015
I know, it's a sin to enjoy Exorcist: The Beginning, but I cannot deny that I thoroughly enjoyed this reviled horror film. I probably shouldn't, given that my all-time favorite horror film is The Exorcist, and many fans of the original film cannot stand the sequels and prequels...I'm not one of them.

Exorcist II: The Heretic? I love that weird, crazy, batshit insane metaphysical drama/fantasy/sci-fi/horror flick in all its lurid, messy, unintentionally funny, oddly intriguing, and oddly compelling glory (I even gave it 4.5/5 stars. I love it, so sue me). The Exorcist III? One of my favorite horror films and I consider to be one of the most unfairly criticized sequels in cinematic history (Along with other horror films like Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, Psycho II, and Jaws 2, to name a few). I can understand why people hated the second film and both prequels, but I will defend The Exorcist III until my dying day as a damn good horror flick that deserves a lot better than what it got. Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist? I love that one, too.

For this entry of the series, I love it. I think that is a very fascinating, creepy, and intriguing film, even though there are undeniable flaws. Much like other entries of the series, I don't think that it deserves the lashing that it gets from critics and audiences. It's certainly not the best entry of The Exorcist franchise, but I think that it is a worthy entry, regardless of the fans that will have my head for this opinion.

The story focuses on Father Lankester Merrin, the old priest from the original film, but in his younger years. In 1949, years after World War II, he has abandoned his faith and is no longer a priest after a horrific event during the war for which he was forced to choose villagers in his parish to die at the hands of Nazi soldiers to save the rest of them (Though this prequel never states why. In Dominion, it is because a villager killed a Nazi soldier, and no one confesses, so Father Merrin is forced to pick a certain number of villagers to die).

Years later and disillusioned with his faith, he mostly works as an archaeologist. He is approached by the British to help excavate a strange finding in Kenya, in which a Christian church was found buried in the sand and is found to be dated long before Christianity ever reached the region. Along with working with the British, a priest from the Vatican is sent to oversee the dig and investigate the strange finding. The village by the dig site is also rather unnerving, since 50 years earlier, the entire village was said to have died from a mysterious plague (To which Merrin asks something on the lines of, "If all the villagers died, then who buried the bodies?").

Of course, the strange find has proved to be terrifying to the villagers who participated in the dig, as many excavators have either left or disappeared due to the strange occurrences that have happened since the church was discovered. At the dig site, he meets the chief excavator who is covered in boils and is constantly drunk and belligerent, a nurse named Sarah who is living with trauma from the Holocaust, and his guide, Chuma, who serves as a go-between for the villagers and the British.

Of course, hearing all the strange things happening at the site, Merrin is concerned, especially when they venture into the church and make strange discoveries, like how the church appears to have been buried immediately after construction because of its pristine condition, how the angel statues inside are holding weapons and pointing them downward as if to hold something back, and it also appears that someone has desecrated the crucifixion statue by turning it upside down Things take more frightening turns when Merrin tries to talk with one of the head excavators, only to learn that he has gone mad, and upon visiting him, the man kills himself by slashing his own throat while Merrin watches. And with the influx of hyenas, a young boy is brutally mauled to death by a pack of hyenas while his younger brother, father, and Merrin watch in horror as he is dragged away screaming in agony to be torn apart by the hyenas.

As they investigate further, things only become increasingly terrifying for Merrin, the research team, and the villagers as the strange happenings claim more and more lives and thoughts of demonic possession gain traction, forcing Merrin to confront his past, his demons, and fight for his own survival.

The storyline can be a bit of a mess, but that mostly has to do with the troubled production of the prequels, which began when film-maker Paul Schrader made his own prequel, Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist, which didn't meet the standards of Warner Bros. (Which the financial backers apparently wanted to have buckets of gore to satisfy modern audiences), causing Warner Bros. to fire Schrader and shelve his version before getting Renny Harlin to direct his own version, Exorcist: The Beginning. So, because of this, each prequel has things to like and dislike, making the viewer wish they could pick and choose what they liked and wishing they could be made into one cohesive film.

With this film (And Dominion), it certainly has its goofy moments (Like how Merrin when asked by Sarah, seems to be alright despite witnessing a man commit suicide and a child being mauled to death by hyenas shortly after both events occurred, and also having recurring nightmares about what happened in his parish during the war), plot holes (This entry doesn't bother to explain why Merrin was forced to pick villagers to die), strange amounts of gore at times (The gore sometimes reminded me of Japanese exploitation films like Lady Snowblood or the Quentin Tarantino homage to that film, Kill Bill Vol. 1), and just flat out what-the-fuck moments (The British major killing himself upon seeing his butterfly collection come to life). Still, despite these moments, I found myself interested in the story, even if it didn't flow as well as it could have (Then again, considering my tremendous fondness of Exorcist II: The Heretic, it shouldn't come as a surprise).

I found myself wanting to know more about the mysterious church, the seemingly cursed village, and all the strange happenings, as well as the interesting exploration of faith for Father Merrin (Though admittedly, Dominion did it better). It's an ambitious story that doesn't get some things right, but I felt that it got most things right, and it made most of the elements compelling and interesting.

The acting is also surprisingly good, considering this film's horrid reputation, especially from actor Stellan Skarsgard (Who also played Jan in the superb, Breaking The Waves, which itself was a fascinating exploration into the nature of faith). His performance as the troubled Merrin is especially terrific, and he managed to remain level, even when the script teetered into absurdity (Which is also the case in Dominion, as he played the same character in that film). He certainly stands above his fellow cast members, but the rest of the cast is also pretty solid by themselves. Still, his performance as the troubled Merrin was something to watch, especially with how his character is forced to confront evil that no logical, clinical explanation could explain away. I found him to be convincing and powerful as his character is forced to confront such horrors.

As far as entertainment goes, I found this film to be a creepy, slow-building, fascinating trek into a frightening evil that forces its characters to confront something from beyond the earthly realm. While it does have its goofy moments, I thought it was rather frightening at times, especially with its suitably gruesome imagery (A boy being mauled by hyenas, a stillborn baby covered in maggots, crows feeding on mutilated corpses, etc.). I was frightening, fascinated, compelled, and intrigued from start to finish - perhaps even riveted - with its exploration into evil, the nature of faith, and confronting past demons.

Exorcist: The Beginning is a flawed film. In fact, it is my least favorite of The Exorcist franchise (Yes, between the prequels, I like Dominion a little bit better). Despite its flaws, however, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with this entry of the franchise and I think of it as a worthy piece of lore to a franchise that is ripe with opportunities for expanding upon its lore. I won't guarantee that you'll love it, but I think that if you enjoy The Exorcist franchise that it is worth seeing at least once, perhaps twice to give it the benefit of the doubt.
½ July 29, 2015
Answers some questions but really disappoints way before the end.
June 20, 2015
Scarier Than Exorcist Dominion Which Is The Same Movie Done Differently...
May 11, 2015
The story of this movie changing director is so convoluted that I almost want to see it. ALMOST...
½ May 8, 2015
Not as horrible as I remember, actually kinda decent. oh boy, that CGI though...
½ January 29, 2015
"God is not here today priest."
½ January 20, 2015
No me pareciò tan mal, esta combinaciòn de Paul Schrader y Renny Harlin.
November 11, 2014
Not scary at all. For being what is suppose to lead up to the beginning of the excorist series and how it came about, it didn't do a lot of that. It did have a great storyline and was very interesting.
October 14, 2014
Stellan Skarsgrd is so good at his craft I swear I'd swoon watching him taking out the trash!
October 10, 2014
Horrible movie, with a very bad graphics and with an weak cast. Bad screenplay and nausty images that don't fascinate anybody
½ October 2, 2014
A little bit of throwback but most of the movie is ridiculous.
August 23, 2014
I'm surprised this has such a low rating, It's not the best movie I've ever seen but it's not terrible...about the worst that can be said is it leaves little to the imagination it pushes it's themes and story down on it's audience.
August 20, 2014
Bad movie. This prequel to the classic film The Exorcist tries to be scary by having $80 million worth of special effects go freak the audience out, but all it does is make the film predictable and tedious. While the performance from Skarsgard is good, the rest of the film isn't.
July 31, 2014
The classic horror, paranormal film genre as the 'Exorcist' series. I found this one really gross and not scary at all!
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