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Exorcist: The Beginning


  • Depicting evil as a carnival funhouse of cheap shock effects, including a maggoty stillborn baby, bloody African tribal rituals, fruit flies nesting in a wino's face, bodies draped from upside-down crosses, and an innocent boy torn apart by a pack of wild hyenas
  • Evoking Nazi genocide as just another in a long line of sensationalist plot points

Director Renny Harlin

Tone Of Commentary
Dry and technical, but also a bit evasive and defensive in spots. Harlin got the assignment after the production company scrapped a completed version directed by Paul Schrader, but he makes no mention of the unusual circumstances that brought him to the project. He also twists himself into knots trying to justify the film's gratuitous violence, eventually settling for the dubious argument that "we live in a world were throats are cut and people are beheaded."

What Went Wrong
Since the studio was paying to make another movie from scratch, Harlin had only 10 months from pre-production to opening day. As a result, Harlin had to dress up the Cinecittà Studios backlot to look like Kenya, which meant resorting to cheesy CGI backdrops and shooting exteriors in a Roman gravel pit that he contemptuously refers to as "the toilet bowl."

Comments On The Cast
Harlin singles out nearly every cast member for praise, from female lead Izabella Scorupco, who was still beautiful under all that demon makeup, to child actor Remy Sweeney, whom he fondly recalls playing with his favorite Britney Spears doll. Yet Harlin doesn't say a word about working with star Stellan Skarsgård, which seems too conspicuous an omission to count as mere oversight. Perhaps Skarsgård felt that starring in one Exorcist prequel was more than enough.

Inevitable Dash Of Pretension
A lot of great talents wasted their time on this prequel and Schrader's version, none greater than legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now!), who designed a sophisticated color scheme that Harlin describes thusly: "Red equals evil."

Commentary In A Nutshell
Harlin on why he had to resort to "unconvincing" CGI effects on the hyena attack: "Hyenas are impossible to work with. We tried real hyenas, but they basically do nothing. They are untrainable wild animals. Even to get them to walk across the room is a major challenge."