Monday, August 23, 2004

Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)

Vacuum Energy rating: no stars
Background information about "Exorcist: The Beginning" is available at The Internet Movie Database

Anyone who has seen the infamous horror movie "The Exorcist" or the continuation of the story in "Exorcist II: The Heretic" knows that the iconic priest Father Merrin had performed two exorcisms, with the first being the exorcism of a young boy in Africa at some point prior to the exorcism of Regan MacNeil. It is this first exorcism that forms the basis of "Exorcist: The Beginning", here with Stellan SkarsgÄrd well-cast as the Indiana Jones-style archeologist (and ex-priest) Lancaster Merrin in 1949 Europe as the modern portion of the film begins.

The storyline should also be instantly familiar to anyone acquainted with the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" genre of filmmaking or fiction writing. An ancient evil (in this case the Sumerian deity Pazuzu) long buried underground in some remote portion of the globe persists in a completely inert state, and thus has been entirely forgotten by the centuries of indigenous cultures living in the area. In the modern era, European researchers dig up some underground spooky structure, express annoyance when the superstitious natives refuse to go inside, and unleash the aforementioned ancient evil. The evil, which proceeds to gain strength by inflicting progressively worse terrors on everyone in the area, thus requires our "Indiana Jones" to venture deep into the underground structure to confront the ancient evil in its lair and defeat it. The evil also must be able to access the innermost fears of its victims to give its torments an extra punch, and a few Nazis are required for laughs, mindless cruelty, impressing Middle America with a few bizarre villains, or upping the body count.

One variation on the theme here is that this particular part of the globe is part of the British Empire in Africa, which thus gives the ancient evil the added terror of provoking a general conflict between a local tribe and the British military authorities. Unfortunately, the parallel between the British army and the Nazi army is established early, and this assessment is confirmed when we see that the commanding officer of the British forces is an avid butterfly collector who tosses a butterfly into a killing jar for us to watch perish. The same sort of modern politically-correct character emerges yet again when Merrin is assigned a Catholic priest (who has no field knowledge of archeology) to watch over his excavations. Obviously this priest has some hidden agenda, and not surprisingly it turns out that the Vatican knew about the ancient evil all along and choose to cover it up rather than do anything about it.

Despite the conventional plot, stock characters, and the inevitable deus ex machina advertised in the title, I was still entertained by this film. It's an example of what my father used to call a "Saturday afternoon" movie that would pop up on television when the Saturday afternoon baseball game got rained out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nicely written :) I agree, not a bad movie, but I expected a bit more. I'd give it 1/2 a star.


6:55 PM  

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