Director Paul Schrader (who helmed Hardcore and the remake of Cat People in the 80s) was brought in to make a prequel to the Exorcist films. A script was written that was well received, Schrader was given a $35m budget and went off to make his film. After it's completion he brought it to Morgan Creek (who paid for the movie) and they despised it. They wanted to see a violent gory horror film, and he had made a dark religious thriller. When they requested he change the film and reshoot certain scenes he refused and was promptly fired.
So Morgan Creek brought in Renny Harlin (who helmed Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, Driven, Cutthroat Island and the yet-to-be-released Mindhunters) who was well known for making semi-profitable spectacle films. They asked him to re-shoot the scenes they wanted and he refused as well. He wanted to remake the entire film as he saw fit. Warner Bros agreed, gave him another $20m and off he went to remake a film that has never been released. He ended up using 10% of the footage Schrader had originally shot, but for the most part it's all new, but from the exact same script mind you, only this time with amped up violence and gore. And Renny Harlin's version is what we received.
This movie had the potential to be very cool. From what I had heard about Schrader's version almost 2 years ago kinda got me excited. Instead of yet another boring gorefest horror film we were gonna get a suspenseful thriller more akin to the original Exorcist than a Friday the 13th film. Such is not the case with Renny Harlin's version of the film.
Filled with quick Mtv style cuts, underdeveloped characters, buckets of blood and a lot of horribly bad CGI, this film is a joke. It starts out promising enough with some disturbing imagery of a battle that had taken place in Africa back in the teen A.D.s, with the blood drenched aftermath of two warring armies, some victims being crucified upside down and a delirious priest walking through the carnage looking for a relic which resembles the Pazuzu image from part 2 (thankfully that film is worse than this). Flash forward to post WWII and Father Lancaster Merrin (who was played by Max Von Sydow in the original film) is asked to travel to Africa to uncover the secret of a church that should not exist that has been uncovered during an archaeological dig. Oh yeah, people seem to be dying off one by one since it was found.
What follows is some mild T&A (from the lovely ex-Bond girl Izabella Scorupco), shitty looking CGI hyenas, lots of CGI blood geysers that look horrible, broken bones (that finger gag really shocked me), slit throats, rotten corpses with gaping holes through their chests, split heads and a bunch of four letter words during the finale.
It's well shot, but everything else feels rushed (except the WWII flashbacks which I suspect was the Schrader footage), the acting by everyone except Stellan Skarsgard who plays Merrin was sub-par, the plot was jumbled, and a 'shocking' plot twist near the end would have been effective if we actually gave a crap about the characters. Even the finale, when the possession takes place, is kind of a letdown. The make-up of the possessed looks exactly like the make-up Linda Blair wore in the original. It made sense then because she'd been mutilating herself for days by the time the priests showed up. Here all the scratches, scars and whatnot just looks lame. Plus the possessed becomes Spider-Man at one point and in the end the possessed acts like the crazed witch from Army of Darkness (“Yo she bitch, let's go!”).
Disappointing to say the least. It's a bad attempt to cash in on the prequel fad that's still popular (after this mess I doubt it will stay popular for much longer) and it's proof yet again that the odd numbered films in this series are the worthwhile ones (Exorcist III is the bomb!). Maybe Renny Harlin should've reconsidered taking this job, since after he accepted the directorial duties for Exorcist: The Beginning he was hit by a car and shattered his leg. Some people just can't take a hint.
1 out of 5