Writers: William Wisher Jr., Caleb Carr
Composers: Angelo Badalamenti, Dog Fashion Disco, Trevor Rabin
Starring: Stellan Skarsgard, Gabriel Mann, Clara Bellar, Billy Crawford, Ralph Brown, Israel Oyelumade, Andrew French, Antoine Kamerling, Julian Wadham, Eddie Osei, Ilario Bisi-Pedro, Niall Refoy
More info: IMDb
Plot: Lankester Merrin is a archaeologist by profession but an ordained Roman Catholic priest who has lost his faith and abandoned his vocation. He is haunted by what he was forced to do in his native Holland during World War II. The church he's excavated in Northern Kenyan dates to the Byzantine period but this puts its construction hundreds of years before Christianity was introduced to the area. the church was buried to the rooftop in sand and as its structure is exposed, a madness slowly descends on the camp. the local tribesmen are prepared to go to war and demand that the church be buried. Soon, two British soldiers are found dead and their commanding officer, Major Granville, shoots a innocent civilian in cold blood. As fear descends upon everyone in the camp, it becomes apparent that a young disabled boy, Cheche, is possessed by the devil forcing Merrin to re-examine his own beliefs.
My rating: 7/10
Will I watch it again? No.
A funny thing happened on the way to making a prequel to THE EXORCIST (1973). Director Paul Schrader made this film. The producers didn't like it. It was too cerebral and they wanted a straight up horror film with lots of blood and gore, you know, like the original film (hahaha). So what do you do? Hire another director (Renny Harlin) and make another film while salvaging something from Schrader's film. The result is EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (2004) which didn't fare well at the box office so the studio did something amazing and released Schrader's version for everyone to see what all the fuss was about. It's an interesting look into how two different film makers and bonehead producers can make two different films from the same material.
You can tell right off the bat one difference and that's that this film opens with Merrin's Nazi ordeal in 1944, and event that caused him to give up the church and become an archaeologist. We see this scene in its total unlike THE BEGINNING that doles it out peace meal throughout the film not showing you the reason why he gave it up until near the end of the picture. This aspect of the story is much better served opening the film as it allows you to understand Merrin's actions right from the start and you also know what's going on inside his mind. There are times when it's best to just get it out in the open rather than space it out and this is one of them.
One thing that's lacking in both films is the CGI wolves. They're weak but I'm willing to overlook that as long as the story, characters, etc are all interesting, enjoyable or work on a decent level. Story-wise, it's a better than THE BEGINNING. It's also less sexy and gory. It's more drama than scary but you do get an exorcism at the end which feels more natural. It's less effects-driven than the other picture. It's closer to THE EXORCIST in tone, too, but you don't get the flashy special effects that picture had. Overall, it's a good picture that's worthy of being a prequel to THE EXORCIST and it's better than Harlin's film. The IMDb trivia says that Christopher Young was the composer and that the producers hired Badalamenti and Rabin for the theatrical release. I'd LOVE to see this with Young's score as I'm certain it would prove to be an even better film. If I were to watch any of the prequels again it would be this one for sure. Don't go into it as a horror film but more as a religious thriller with the emphasis on drama and redemption. You'll probably have a chance at enjoying it if you do.