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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Exorcist: The Beginning (2003)

Exorcist: The Beginning (2003)

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Released 23-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-Train
Audio Commentary-Renny Harlin (Director)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 109
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Renny Harlin
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Stellan Skarsgård
Izabella Scorupco
James D'Arcy
Remy Sweeney
Julian Wadham
Andrew French
Ralph Brown
Ben Cross
David Bradley
Alan Ford
Antonie Kamerling
Eddie Osei
Israel Aduramo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Paul Linford
Trevor Rabin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.00:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Exorcist: The Beginning tells the story of Father Merrin's first encounter with the devil, a meeting that was mysteriously hinted at in William Friedkin's original masterpiece. The film starts in 1949 where a faithless Father Merrin has turned his back on the church after a horrific incident at the hands of the Nazis in occupied Europe during World War II. For solace he turns to archaeology as a spiritual substitute. Merrin, now a burnt-out shell of a man, reluctantly accepts a job to excavate an ancient church that has been discovered in Kenya. The church apparently dates back hundreds of years before Christianity came to the region, and possibly marks the site where Lucifer first fell from God's grace. The assignment will ultimately test Merrin's resolve and may cost him his soul.

    The history of this production is long and convoluted. Originally the film was to be directed by John Frankenheimer and was to star Liam Neeson in the lead role of Merrin. However, Frankenheimer became very ill and left the project just weeks before he passed away. When this happened, Liam Neeson also left the project. Warner Bros then turned to director Paul Schrader, most famous for penning Scorcese's Taxi Driver. In the lead role Schrader chose the ever-reliable and not untalented Stellan Skarsgard. All seemed well at this point and filming began. When Schrader delivered his cut of the film to the Warner Bros executives they were less than happy and shelved the project. Apparently Schrader's version skimped on the gore, head spinning and projectile vomiting in favour of psychological thrills. Instead of trusting the audience to watch and enjoy a cerebral thriller, Warner Bros forked out an additional 40 million dollars and hired director Renny Harlin to make an entirely new film packed with cheap shock effects and gory denouements. Eventually Harlin delivered as promised. The film was released without press screenings, which never bodes well, and managed to make its money back before disappearing into home video obscurity.

    Now, let's get something out of the way first. Harlin's Exorcist: The Beginning is nowhere near the disaster some would have you believe, and it is substantially better than John Boorman's turgid Exorcist II: The Heretic. It is simply a by-the-numbers genre show with passable performances and mediocre special effects like so many other generic horror offerings released over the calendar year. However, the fact remains that this film is a prequel to one of the greatest horror stories of all time and as such is a very poor cousin to the original demonic nightmare. On the plus side, the film is not all dull clichés and hack work. Stellan Skarsgard for example is excellent in the role of Father Merrin and makes for a believable younger version of the great Max Von Sydow. The production design is also quite startling in places, particularly the excavated church with its foreboding statues and gothic architecture.

    Renny Harlin is a serviceable director and has made several excellent action films over the years. Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight are all top shelf action vehicles. Now, as good as those films are, subtlety is not one of their virtues, wherein lies the problem. The original Exorcist had a number of shocking, unforgettable scenes, but was laced with subtlety and subliminal suggestion. all of which appear to be beyond Harlin's skill as a storyteller. In the end, Exorcist: The Beginning is a missed opportunity, but worth a look.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Exorcist: The Beginning is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer presented by Roadshow is simply excellent. The picture has a razor sharp image that is basically faultless. Shadow levels are spot on with strong detailed images and solid blacks. There is not a hint of low level noise or compression anomalies. Grain is just as scarce.

    Colours are rich and have been rendered with care. In fact, the picture looks too polished at times, which unfortunately gives away the fact that most of the film's locales were actually sets. This is a relatively small gripe.

    There are no film or video artefacts to speak of.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Exorcist: The Beginning has been given a first rate audio track in English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. There is also a directors commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround.

    Dialogue is always clear and never loses clarity amongst the on-screen carnage, and trust me there are some brutal moments. There were no audio sync problems, other than lines of dialogue that were intentionally altered in post production.

    The film's score by Trevor Rabin and Paul Linford is passable at best and really doesn't convey the impending dread the story is trying to convey.

    Surround channel usage is first rate. The rear channels get a solid workout during the more robust scenes and cheap shock tactics that director Harlin tends to use. The directional field is clearly defined and well balanced.

    The subwoofer adds a potent reverberation to the sound effects throughout the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Dolby Digital Trailer

Audio Commentary - Renny Harlin

    You have to hand it to Renny Harlin, he never shies away from the directorial choices he's made and is always an interesting listen. I was disappointed, however, that there was no reference during the commentary to the controversial circumstances surrounding his employment after the ill-fated Schrader effort. All-in-all, a decent commentary.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

    Less than 10 minutes of EPK information that is less than useless, especially considering the history of the production.

Theatrical Trailer

    An anamorphic trailer for the film featuring scenes that are not be found in Harlin's version and which were obviously lifted from Schrader's unseen version.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    All versions of this release are basically the same.

Summary

    Exorcist: The Beginning is an unquestionably flawed film, but one that remains interesting due to its turbulent production history and competent story arc that ultimately ties in with William Peter Blatty's original demonic possession story. The disc is a delight for the eyes and ears, but is almost barren of extra material. Worthy of a rental at best.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Greg Morfoot (if interested here is my bio)
Friday, April 08, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLG 76cm Widescreen Flatron Television. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony HT-K215. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony HT-K215
Speakers fronts-paradigm titans, centre &rear Sony - radio parts subbie

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