by: Dr. Boogie
You know how many sequels they made to The Exorcist? More than zero. You know how many they should have made? Less than that. Making a sequel can be tough, especially when the premise was explored pretty thoroughly in the original work. When that's the case, there's only one thing to do: build off the original.
Take this prequel (Exorcist: The Beginning), for example: in it, Father Merrin (the priest from the original film) is a gruff archaeologist. He's had a crisis of faith, so now he hunts down old relics for black market art collectors. Why not? It's not like anyone really liked him in The Exorcist, right?
That was my first sign that this movie was going to be bad. I didn't realize how bad, but along the way, I came up with a list of the best... worst... the most memorable parts of this sequel that shouldn't have been made to a sequel that shouldn't have been made:
#7: The Idol!
The thing that gets Merrin to the excavation in the first place is this creepy artifact. At the beginning of the film, a mysterious man tells him that some art collectors will pay a hefty sum for this idol in the likeness of some demon. Merrin heads to the dig site to find the artifact, he questions everyone at the site about it, he searches through the cursed church to find it, and he even seeks out the previous foreman who went insane, all to find this Sumerian tchochke. Eventually, he does locate the damn thing, but guess what:
He sets it down in the middle of a sand storm and loses it. So now he's a failure as a priest AND an archaeologist.
Soon after Merrin arrives at the dig site, he notices that there are quite a few hyenas roaming around a short distance from the camp. He doesn't think much of a bunch of vicious scavengers hanging out dangerously close to the workers, nor does he remember this when his guide tells him about a number of disappearances around the camp.
That night, the hyenas roam into the heart of the camp and corner one of the foreman's sons.
The other son is there, too, but the hyenas aren't all that interested in him. More on that later. No one is actually on the lookout for the hyenas, in spite of their close proximity to the place where everyone is sleeping. I can't be sure about this, but I believe people were aware that wild animals were dangerous prior to the 1940s. Anyway, the hyenas didn't come by just to laugh and snarl, so they maul the kid to death.
A short time into the mauling, some of the workers finally come out to check on the commotion. The only armed one among them is too scared to take a shot, so it falls on Merrin to grab his gun and do the work for him. He drives the hyenas off, but they take what remains of the kid with him. And they still don't post any guards around the camp!!
#5: Jeffries' Rotting Face!
One of Merrin's earliest acquaintances in the camp is a repulsive Afrikaner named Jeffries. Right off the bat, Merrin notices something unusual about Jeffries, apart from his awful teeth: his face has a few unsightly boils on it. At first it seems like a simple case of outer beauty reflecting inner beauty, but every time we see Jeffries, his complexion is getting worse.
As his face deteriorates, so too does his attitude. Eventually, he lashes out at Sarah, the camp's doctor and Merrin's love interest. He points out that she's more interested in the man with the normal face than she is in him, and who can blame her? Not Jeffires, apparently, as he wanders off without further incidence to find more booze. That's when he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror:
At its most putrescent, the sores on Jeffries' face start to glow a little. Flies are buzzing about, too. It seems like we're about to see his face melt right off of his skull, but no. Instead, some unidentified force grabs him and strings him up so the crows can peck at him.
Not a bad death, but it could have been so much more.
#4: The Rotting Fetus!
A woman gives birth to a rotting, maggot-covered fetus. 'Nuff said.
#3: The African Exorcism!
As I mentioned earlier, one of the foreman's sons (the surviving one) has been acting odd. Hyenas are drawn to him, he's moving the furniture with his mind, and he's predicting deaths. It all points to one thing: demonic possession. In America, the treatment for such would involve pea soup, bondage, and defenestration. In Africa, they use a slightly different method:
They apply leeches to the child and then prepare to drive a big stone knife through his chest. I can't help but think the original film would have been much shorter if these guys had been called to perform the exorcism. On the other hand, the original movie did end with the possessed person being killed (spoiler alert) so who can blame these guys for wanting to speed things up a little?
The good news is they don't succeed. The bad news is... they don't succeed.
As they prepare to "exorcise" the child, their bones start spontaneously breaking. Calcium deficiency is a scary thing, kids. Drink your milk.
#2: The Death Of The Major!
In the film, a major in the British army is the one who allows Merrin access to the church so he can do his grave robbing. He doesn't really play a big part in the movie, but his death is still quite notable.
It all starts when he and his unit are called into calm the panicking workers and tribesman around the dig site. Upon arriving at the church, [major] discovers the thoroughly-pecked remains of Jeffries. It's an unnerving site, and Jeffries reacts the same way any normal person would: he walks outside and shoots a man in the head.
Now the local tribe is ready for a fight. The army mobilizes, but [major] decides to relax with his bug collection. Freaky stuff starts to happen.
A butterfly he was pinning changes into a dead crow. How odd.
All of a sudden, the major has a second riot on his hands:
The other butterflies in his collection start weakly flapping their wings. Wow, that is kind of freaky. The major is a little freaked out, but he manages to allay his fears by...
Putting a gun against his head? Is he really thinking about ending it all just because his bug collection is getting unruly?
Well whatever he's thinking, threatening to kill himself does stop the butterflies from flapping their wings. Things start to calm down. Then this happens:
A butterfly is shown popping in and out of his mouth, so he kills himself. This is a high-ranking officer in the armed forces, a guy who has presumably seen his fair share of death over the course of his career, and he kills himself because he tasted something icky. What a pussy.
All this was merely a leadup to the best part of the whole ordeal. The one thing that stands out the most, the one thing that makes this movie truly ridiculous, is the actual exorcism. You could be forgiven for watching this movie and not realizing that it was about exorcisms, as that particular element doesn't really play a big part in the plot. In fact, you'd think this was some sort of straight-to-video sequel to The Mummy for the better part of the film. But for the last 20 minutes or so, this movie with "exorcist" in the title finally shows us an exorcism.
And in retrospect, the probably shouldn't have.
#1: The Actual Exorcism!
The exorcism begins with a big twist: it turns out that Merrin's love interest, Sarah, is actually the one possessed, rather than the kid whom they believed was possessed because he was constantly acting possessed, what with summoning hyenas, having seizures, sporting mysterious lesions, and in general doing everything not pea soup-related from the original movie. It's a weak twist at best, but at least it sets you up for what comes next.
Prior to this, I thought the movie was shameless for using the "Exorcist" name when it had nothing to do with the original movie. Well, the director decided to make up for that all at once at the end of the movie, starting with the classic makeup. In response, Merrin immediately recovers his lost faith, dons the trappings of a priest, and prepares to exorcise his girlfriend. What follows is one of the most ridiculous and forced sequences I've ever seen in a movie.
The possessed Sarah leads Merrin on a wild chase through the caves underneath the church, all the while bellowing the same sort of profane taunts as in the original film. Merrin, in turn, recites the exorcism handbook from memory despite being out of the priesthood for years. Over and over again he nearly gets Sarah unpossessed, only to have her slash at him or crawl backwards away from him. The whole time you're watching this, you really can't believe that you're watching the same movie you'd been watching for the past 90 minutes. It's as if they had two scripts, one for an exorcism movie and one for a horror movie set in 1940s Egypt, and just slapped them together a week before shooting the damn thing.
Finally, Merrin gains the upper hand.
Sarah comes running at him, but is sacked at the 10-yard line by the power of the Holy Spirit! It looks and sounds like the impact broke every bone in her body, but she comes out of it just fine. And then she dies anyway. Ah, pathos.
Watching this movie, you get the distinct impression that the director, the writer, and even the actors, were not making an Exorcist movie. Instead, it seems like at the last minute, they took a mediocre horror film and tried to attach it to a series that some people still remember fondly. Seeing this movie will definitely cure you of any lingering fondness for the series, especially when you see that Father Merrin apparently had less trouble exorcising a possessed person running around a cave than he did with one who was tied to a bed.
Interesting side note: the back of the DVD box claims this film is "The scariest movie of all time". I don't have a joke for that.
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