The first prequel in the series, Exorcist: The Beginning is based upon events featured as flashbacks in 1977's Exorcist II: The Heretic. Playing the character made famous by Max von Sydow in the earlier films, this entry finds Stellan… More The first prequel in the series, Exorcist: The Beginning is based upon events featured as flashbacks in 1977's Exorcist II: The Heretic. Playing the character made famous by Max von Sydow in the earlier films, this entry finds Stellan Skarsgård as a young Father Merrin facing true evil for the first time while doing missionary work in Africa in the wake of World War II. When a young local boy begins to behave strangely, it becomes more and more apparent to Merrin that the child is a victim of demonic possession. Together with Father William Francis, a fellow cleric played by Gabriel Mann (Josie and the Pussycats, The Bourne Identity), Merrin must square off against the demon, Pazuzu, for the first of many times. Boasting a first-time screenplay by best-selling novelist Caleb Carr (The Alienist), Exorcist: The Beginning features a supporting cast headed by Clara Bellar (The Sleepy Time Gal, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence) and European pop star Billy Crawford in his first big-screen acting role. Planned for years, but plagued by problems such as the death of director John Frankenheimer (before production had even begun) and the exit of star Liam Neeson, the fourth installment of the Exorcist saga finally got off the ground with Paul Schrader (Affliction, Auto Focus) behind the camera and Skarsgård filling the shoes left empty by Neeson. But the pitfalls didn't stop there, as Warner Bros. was disappointed with the approach taken by Schrader after seeing his finished cut, and hired an uncredited Renny Harlin to helm six weeks of reshoots.
Consensus: A mediocre, gory horror film, nowhere near the quality of the 1973 original.