Exorcist: The Beginning Renny Harlin

It was obviously AC/DC's "If You Want Blood You've Got It" that director Renny Harlin walked into the meeting room singing when he met with Warner Brothers executives to convince them that he was the man to rescue Exorcist: The Beginning. Unfortunately, Harlin gave the studio what they wanted: something entirely different from what any true fan of the original 1973 classic was hoping for. Originally, screenwriter Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ) was the man chosen to make the film, which he did, as a psychological thriller. However, he was quickly fired after the film failed to receive a seal of approval because of its lack of blood and gore — the only real thing Harlin's film has to offer. Set in the '40s, long before Father Merrin (then Max Von Sydow) dealt with the demonised little Regan, he has lost his faith and denounced his priesthood to become an archaeologist. On a trip to Africa, he stumbles upon a mysteriously immaculate church beneath the ground, which leads Merrin (now Stellan Skarsgård) on a hellish adventure to rid the area of its evil satanic spirits. Alexi Hawley's script is completely reliant on making the viewer jump instead of feel that chill down the spine the original Exorcist basically invented. Every sin you'd come to expect out of a poorly made prequel is committed in this film. Skarsgård's Merrin fails upon his first words, as his accent is far clearer, even though it's 30 years before the character reaches Von Sydow's foreign grumble. There is plenty of spurting blood, bloodthirsty hyenas, outrageous CGI and yes, even a possessed character towards the end that embarrassingly disgraces Linda Blair's thrilling role from 32 years ago. The only truly horrifying moments in the film appear thanks to Harlin's obsession in slaying young children in the most brutal ways, something that could have been handled a little more delicately. This DVD could have been a valuable investment if it was to include Schrader's version, but alas, it is not here. Instead, the extras are poorly chosen. A paltry commentary by Harlin is completely unbearable, largely in part to his wooden Scandinavian voice that never breaks out of its monotony and his gall to declare the original as slow. The "behind the scenes" featurette does little more than speak with the actors about their hollow roles. Save your money for Schrader's version, if it is ever exorcised from the vaults. Plus: Trailer. (Warner)