The Exorcist
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9 items from 2004


Exorcist: The Beginning

9 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The Exorcist movie series is not so much a franchise as a perpetual going-out-of-business sale. There are now four official Exorcist films and many more imitations. The Exorcist (1973), written by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, was truly one of the scariest movies ever made, for it portrayed a confrontation by humans with true evil rather than the monsters, mummies, ghosts and living dead that populate most horror films. Since then, however, audiences have been treated to the usual off-the-rack horror nonsense with the Exorcist label misleadingly attached to the titles. Exorcist: The Beginning continues the practice of false advertising.

Yes, the Exorcist imprint will draw enough young males for a solid opening week. Once word gets out that this movie makes Alien vs. Predator look like a classic, boxoffice could drop 50% or more.

The scariest thing about this film is how desperate the makers are to earn a scream. Clearly lacking confidence in a prosaic premise, director Renny Harlin and writers Alexi Hawley, William Wisher Jr. and Caleb Carr try out just about every gag they can think of: From a meaningless opening sequence featuring severed limbs and upside-down crucifixes on a battlefield, the movie indulges in facial boils, blood-sucking leeches, maggots on a stillborn baby, squirting blood, buzzing flies, two suicides, a bird plucking out a human eye and mad hyenas tearing apart of small boy. And when all else fails, they throw in a shower scene and sandstorm.

This was the film that found Morgan Creek making two versions. Paul Schrader shot and finished an edit of his The Beginning in May 2003. When Morgan Creek topper James Robinson rejected this film, Schrader departed and Harlin was brought aboard. Reportedly, little if anything from Schrader's version appears in Harlin's film.

Like the lamentable John Boorman film Exorcist II: The Heretic, this film too rolls back the clock to investigate the first confrontation between Father Merrin, the aging exorcist in the original film, and the devil in British colonial Africa, an incident alluded to in Friedkin's film and Blatty's best-selling novel. Stellan Skarsgard, who, remarkably, stars in both Schrader and Harlin's movies, plays Merrin as a disillusioned ex-priest, drifting through Cairo in 1949 in an alcoholic haze. A mysterious antiquities collector (Ben Cross) approaches him about joining an archaeological dig in a remote region in Kenya, where British authorities have discovered a buried Christian Byzantine church in a place where no church from that era should exist.

Merrin arrives at the site to learn people are disappearing, wild hyenas circle the compound and villagers believe an evil force lurks within the church. He is accompanied by a young and eager priest (James D'Arcy) whose belief in God is so mighty you know he is doomed. Merrin finds more in common with Dr. Sarah Novack (Izabella Scorupco), one of those selfless souls who can do good deeds without ever mussing her makeup or perfectly coifed hair.

Father Merrin -- oops, make that Mr. Merrin -- and Dr. Sarah Share a Holocaust background. She is a concentration camp survivor, while he left the church after witnessing Nazi atrocities in his native Holland.

The remainder of the movie is taken up with bad nightmares, living nightmares of strange doings in the devil's playground and hideous deaths experienced by several characters. The soundtrack is more alarming than the hyenas as every sound is amplified and ominous choral music pounds away. From time to time, Merrin feels the urge to search -- alone -- inside the church or go digging in the nearby graveyard. He always does so in the dead of night. Guess he doesn't want to wake anybody up.

Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro makes the whole look much better than it deserves, while designer Stefano Maria Ortolani does an amazing job of creating an African desert, old Cairo and wintry Holland on the backlots of Rome's famed Cinecitta Studios.

This is the kind of film that mysteriously vanishes from most participants' resumes. In this instance, they can always fall back on Flip Wilson's old line and claim that "the devil made me do it."

EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING

Warner Bros. Pictures

Morgan Creek

Credits:

Director: Renny Harlin

Screenwriter: Alexi Hawley

Story by: William Wisher Jr., Caleb Carr

Producer: James G. Robinson

Executive producers: Guy McElwaine, David C. Robinson

Director of photography: Vittorio Storaro

Production designer: Stefano Maria Ortolani

Music: Trevor Rabin

Costume designer: Luke Reichle

Editors: Mark Goldblatt, Todd E. Miller

Cast:

Father Merrin: Stellan Skarsgard

Father Francis: James D'Arcy

Dr. Sarah Novack: Izabella Scorupco

Joseph: Remy Sweeney

Major Granville: Julian Wadham

MPAA rating: R

Running time -- 112 minutes »

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My Summer of Love

8 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

EDINBURGH -- A working-class tomboy on a moped with no motor meets a young patrician beauty on horseback in the Yorkshire countryside. They begin an unlikely friendship and it is no surprise, given the film's title, that it becomes something a little more than that. But what could so easily have been a predictable and tired rehash of youthful Sapphic exploration turns out to be engagingly fresh not least because of the captivating performances of the two leads.

Boxoffice prospects are not huge but the picture should be well received on the festival and art house circuit and properly promoted could do well on television.

Press plays Mona, a sparky and quizzical young woman whose fate appears to be tied inextricably to her brother Phil, a petty crook whose born-again Christianity has made him empty their pub of booze and turn it into a place for prayer meetings. Mona's mood is not improved by being dumped by a crude older boyfriend.

When she tips off her moped in a country field and opens her eyes to find a beautiful girl peering down at her from atop a horse, she is immediately curious. Tamsin (Blunt) has the lazy hauteur of the carelessly rich and her invitation to Mona to visit her at her parents' swanky home is more like an order.

When Mona dares to accept, she finds a world foreign to her existence. Tamsin plays the cello, listens to Edith Piaf and drinks red wine. She speaks of Nietzsche and Freud and worships the memory of her equally glamorous older sister who she says died of anorexia. With her parents away, Tamsin urges Mona to stay. They talk and talk and swear eternal allegiance as friends.

That leads to tentative explorations of their sexuality, although these scenes are handled delicately and without the taint of voyeurism. Tamsin at first appears stronger than Mona, and they embark on adventures of revenge against Tamsin's cheating father and Mona's faithless boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Mona's brother is building a giant cross that he plans to erect on a hill overlooking their village. He cautions Mona about behavior he views as reckless, but falls prey to the confidence of Tamsin who easily reveals the frailty of his conversion.

Pawlikowski is working on ambitious themes having to do not only with the passage of youth but also the conflicts of faith and fantasy. Mona's world is hard but she dreams of beautiful things like love and fidelity. Tamsin, well educated and spoiled, spins a fanciful image of faux nihilism and doom. Brother Phil's attempts to fight his own violent nature are under constant threat. As the three begin to pull in separation directions, this summer of love comes apart at the seams.

Some of the metaphors are a bit too literal but the director largely succeeds with his story and the surprises are convincing. Best of all the film has a terrific sense of humor and the young actresses exploit it delightfully. The scenes in which Mona reprises the devil's voice from The Exorcist are priceless.

MY SUMMER OF LOVE

ContentFilm

BBC Films and the Film Consortium with Baker Street present in association with U.K. Film Council a Take Partnerships production of an Apocalypso Picture

Credits:

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Screenplay: Pawlikowski, Michael Wynne, based on the novel by Helen Cross

Producers: Tanya Seghatchian, Christopher Collins

Executive producers: David M. Thompson, Chris Auty, Emma Hayter

Director of photography: Ryszard Lenczewski

Production designer: John Stevenson

Costume designer: Julian Day

Music: Alison Goldfrapp, Will Gregory

Editor: David Charap.

Cast:

Mona: Nathalie Press

Tamsin: Emily Blunt

Phil: Paddy Considine

Ricky: Dean Andrews.

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 86 minutes »

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Boxoffice rivals green with envy as 'Exorcist' takes top spot

24 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Warner Bros. Pictures' The Exorcist: The Beginning was spinning turnstiles at the boxoffice this past weekend as the fourth film in the series -- or fifth, depending on whether you count the unreleased version -- debuted in the top slot with $18.1 million. The Renny Harlin-directed prequel from Morgan Creek had the best debut among all the Exorcist films and did better than anticipated but will not have the legs of the first picture, which has grossed $232.7 million since its release in 1973. The only other wide release this past weekend was Paramount's Without a Paddle, a PG-13-rated comedy starring Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard. Paddle debuted in the second spot with $13.5 million. Altogether the boxoffice in North America over the weekend was disappointing. The total for the 118 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter was $118.2 million -- down some 19% from the 13th weekend of summer 2003. As the summer boxoffice heads into its last two weekends, record tallies in both boxoffice and admissions for the season are far from certain at this point. »

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Final figures: 'Exorcist' spins big boxoffice numbers

23 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Warner Bros. Pictures' The Exorcist: The Beginning levitated $18.1 million in boxoffice receipts to possess the top spot this weekend, surprising industry observers with a stronger-than-anticipated opening, according to Monday's final figures. The prequel and fourth film of the franchise, helmed by Renny Harlin and produced by Morgan Creek, had the best debut among all the Exorcist films. The R-rated Exorcist held sway at the head of a rather bunched-up group of films with no one picture breaking out as the top six grossed between $10 million-$18 million. After the best first half in history, the summer boxoffice season continues to nose-dive. The estimated total for this session's top 12 films was $103 million -- down 22% compared with the 13th weekend of last summer. Last summer posted the biggest final three weeks ever for the season, which helped push the year's tally to record heights in both boxoffice and admissions. Thanks to the strong start, the summer-to-date is holding on to a slight lead over last year at this time. But with just two weekends left, that tenuous lead could evaporate if things don't turn around. Entering the marketplace with much lighter fare, Paramount's Without a Paddle arrived at the high end of expectations. The PG-13-rated comedy, starring Seth Green, Dax Shepard and Matthew Lillard and directed by Steven Brill, placed second with $13.5 million. »

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'Exorcist' spins big boxoffice numbers

23 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Warner Bros. Pictures' The Exorcist: The Beginning levitated $18.1 million in boxoffice receipts to possess the top spot this weekend, surprising industry observers with a stronger-than-anticipated opening, according to Monday's final figures. The prequel and fourth film of the franchise, helmed by Renny Harlin and produced by Morgan Creek, had the best debut among all the Exorcist films. The R-rated Exorcist held sway at the head of a rather bunched-up group of films with no one picture breaking out as the top six grossed between $10 million-$18 million. After the best first half in history, the summer boxoffice season continues to nose-dive. The estimated total for this session's top 12 films was $103 million -- down 22% compared with the 13th weekend of last summer. Last summer posted the biggest final three weeks ever for the season, which helped push the year's tally to record heights in both boxoffice and admissions. Thanks to the strong start, the summer-to-date is holding on to a slight lead over last year at this time. But with just two weekends left, that tenuous lead could evaporate if things don't turn around. Entering the marketplace with much lighter fare, Paramount's Without a Paddle arrived at the high end of expectations. The PG-13-rated comedy, starring Seth Green, Dax Shepard and Matthew Lillard and directed by Steven Brill, placed second with $13.5 million. »

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Ditched 'Exorcist' Movie To Be Released on DVD

16 April 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Veteran director Paul Schrader is furious his axed prequel to 1973 horror classic The Exorcist will be released on DVD at the same time as its replacement - because he wants it to receive a theatrical release. American Gigolo film-maker Schrader - who also scripted Taxi Driver and Raging Bull - had completed shooting his version of Exorcist: The Beginning when studio Morgan Creek insisted it needed more gore. Schrader, who saw the story as a "character-driven period drama", was sacked and replaced by Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master director Renny Harlin to give it a more bloody look. Harlin then started shooting the $54 million prequel from scratch. But an upset Schrader says, "I'm very proud of my film, and I think it deserves to be seen." Exorcist: The Beginning is due to be released in cinemas later this year with the DVD release date as yet announced. »

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Oscar Winner Mercedes McCambridge Dies at 85

18 March 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Actress Mercedes McCambridge, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for All the King's Men and gained fame in the 70s as the voice of the devil-possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist, died of natural causes on March 2, it was reported; she was 85. A radio-trained actress with a powerful voice and strong demeanor who didn't fit the ingénue mold of the 40s and 50s, McCambridge won an Oscar for her 1949 screen debut as the conniving assistant/mistress to Broderick Crawford in All the King's Men. Other notable supporting roles followed, including her homoerotic turn opposite Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar, her performance as Rock Hudson's sister in Giant, and an uncredited yet visceral part as a gang leader in Touch of Evil. The part McCambridge is most remembered for, however, was her harrowing and altogether unworldly vocal dubbing of Linda Blair in 1973's The Exorcist. She clashed famously with director William Friedkin, who had promised onscreen credit for her work but claimed he didn't have time to insert it when the film initially previewed; an intervention by the Screen Actors Guild forced the inclusion of her credit. Later in her career, McCambridge performed on TV and onstage, most notably in Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers in the early 90s, and also published her autobiography, The Quality of Mercy, in 1981. --Prepared by IMDb staff »

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Oscar Winner Mercedes McCambridge Dies at 85

17 March 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Actress Mercedes McCambridge, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for All the King's Men and gained fame in the 70s as the voice of the devil-possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist, died of natural causes on March 2, it was reported; she was 85. A radio-trained actress with a powerful voice and strong demeanor who didn't fit the ingénue mold of the 40s and 50s, McCambridge won an Oscar for her 1949 screen debut as the conniving assistant/mistress to Broderick Crawford in All the King's Men. Other notable supporting roles followed, including her homoerotic turn opposite Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar, her performance as Rock Hudson's sister in Giant, and an uncredited yet visceral part as a gang leader in Touch of Evil. The part McCambridge is most remembered for, however, was her harrowing and altogether unworldly vocal dubbing of Linda Blair in 1973's The Exorcist. She clashed famously with director William Friedkin, who had promised onscreen credit for her work but claimed he didn't have time to insert it when the film initially previewed; an intervention by the Screen Actors Guild forced the inclusion of her credit. Later in her career, McCambridge performed on TV and onstage, most notably in Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers in the early 90s, and also published her autobiography, The Quality of Mercy, in 1981. --Prepared by IMDb staff »

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US Army Uncovers 'Exorcist' Site in Iraq

3 February 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

The US Army is turning Hatra, Iraq, into a movie mecca after discovering the site where movie maker William Friedkin shot the opening sequence of horror classic The Exorcist. Movie fan Capt. Nik Guran stumbled across the eerie find last month while stationed in Hatra and now he plans to turn the desert site into The Exorcist Experience. And Guran has Friedkin's backing. The director says, "The Army has hatched this idea to turn the whole area into a tourist attraction. I hope they'll arrange it. I would love nothing better than to return to Iraq. I've traveled all over the world, and I have never felt closer to a people than I did to the Iraqis." Friedkin reveals he spent three months in 1972 sleeping in a tent and shooting stock footage of a German archaeological site in the desert outside Hatra for his film's creepy opening scenes. Army officials like Guran's idea and have given the enterprising captain $5,000 to spend on the venture. So far, the soldier has created a car park and revamped a nearby hotel with the help of local students. Friedkin and Exorcist author William Peter Blatty are expected to visit the 'theme park' before it opens later this year. »

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9 items from 2004


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