Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)

R  |   |  Horror, Mystery, Thriller  |  20 August 2004 (USA)
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Years before Father Lancaster Merrin helped save Regan MacNeil's soul, he first encounters the demon Pazuzu in East Africa. This is the tale of Father Merrin's initial battle with Pazuzu and the rediscovery of his faith.



(movie The Exorcist), (story) (as William Wisher) , 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Andrew French ...
Father Gionetti
Eddie Osei ...
Israel Oyelumade ...
Jomo (as Israel Aduramo)
Patrick O'Kane ...
James Bellamy ...


Archeologist Lankester Merrin is asked to go to East Africa to excavate a church that has been found completely buried in sand. Merrin is also an ordained Roman Catholic priest who, still haunted by what he was forced to do during World War II in his native Holland, eschews any religion or belief. He's fascinated by what he finds and that it dates hundred of years before Christianity was introduced to the area. Accompanied by a young priest, Father Francis, to keep an eye on the religious elements of what they find, Merrin makes his way to the camp. There he meets a young doctor, Sarah and soon realizes there is an air of gloom that envelops the entire site. Workmen go mad and a young boy is mauled by a pack of hyenas while completely ignoring his younger brother Joseph. Inside the church itself they find signs of desecration. Merrin is forced to re-examine his lack of faith and come face to face with the devil. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A new chapter of evil See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and gore, disturbing images and rituals, and for language including some sexual dialogue | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 August 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Exorcist IV: The Beginning  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$50,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$18,054,001 (USA) (20 August 2004)


$2,689,909 (Brazil) (10 December 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Unrated Version)

Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
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Did You Know?


The screenplay had a long and painful gestation process. William Peter Blatty refused to get involved, resulting in over a decade being spent trying to get a screenplay together, with the producers eventually settling on a draft by Caleb Carr, which incorporated elements from an earlier screenplay by William Wisher Jr.. See more »


The 5th century Byzantine priest at the beginning of the films has a Western-style rosary clasped in his hand. While the use of prayer ropes (alongside other methods of counting prayers) was already known around that time, rosaries only reached their present form during the 15th-16th centuries. Note also that actual Byzantine prayer ropes - known as a komboskini or a chotki - are quite different in form and function from Western rosaries. See more »


Father Francis: You asked the question, now you listen to the answer!
See more »


Follows The Exorcist III (1990) See more »


We'll Meet Again
By Hugh Charles and Ross Parker
Performed by Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman
Courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Maybe the worst of the year
22 August 2004 | by (Oakville, Ontario) – See all my reviews

Number one on Entertainment Weekly's list of the scariest movies of all time. Number 196 of the top 250 movies as rated by fans on the IMDb.com database. Number one R-rated film of all-time if adjusted for inflation. Banned in several countries including the United Kingdom. Possibly the scariest and most controversial film ever made.

The movie was The Exorcist, the horror film about a possessed child that took the world by storm in 1973. Those of us lucky enough to see the film in a packed theatre or to have lived through its release will never forget the experience. News about paramedics being on hand in major cities to handle the panic stricken and reports of people fainting in theaters were rampant. Religious leaders like Billy Graham condemned the film claiming the movie itself to be possessed by the devil and there were rumors of a curse put upon the production crew that grew increasingly elaborate with every broken telephone connection.

All the hype and hysteria lead to buckets and buckets of cash for the Warner Bros. Studio and then two inferior sequels (which seem to be the right of passage for a film in this genre). Restored in 2003, director William Friedkin added some 'never-before-seen' footage and re-released The Exorcist theatrically. Its second run scared up another $40 million to add to its already impressive cume.

So based on a franchise that fizzled out with the third installment in 1990 only to be resurrected with the 30-year anniversary DVD edition of the original, Hollywood has decided to go back and try and breathe new life into the series by telling the story of Father Merrin before he encountered the possessed Regan MacNeil in the apt titled Exorcist: The Beginning.

Going backwards in time is usually easier for filmmakers as they don't have to deal with leftover character explanations or story plots that still needed resolve. But this was the least of the films production problems.

First were the revolving door of directors attached to the project including John Frankenheimer who stepped down from the production eerily just before his death. Then Paul Schrader (Auto Focus) came on board and shot an entire film. Studio executives were however unimpressed with the lack of scares and gore and greenlit the film to be re-made again under the helm of Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger). Harlin re-shot the entire film incorporating only a few scenes from the original Schrader version.

The next obstacle was with the availability of the actors for a second full shooting schedule. When Gabriel Mann was unable to reprise his role due to a scheduling conflict, another actor, namely James Darcy from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was brought on board to replace him. Other actors and actresses and additional story lines were added to help shape Harlin's new vision and voila,…two versions of a film to make the perfect 2-sided DVD (Like that will ever happen!).

Whether Schrader's version will ever see the light of day is unknown and that is too bad, for in the interim, we are left with a shell of a film that is so misguided and uninteresting, it made Scary Movie look like an Oscar contender. For those of you who caution to comment that no film could ever live up to the original, I argue that this movie stands on its own to being the worst of in the series and maybe even one of the worst films of 2004.

Exorcist: The Beginning centers on the Father Merrin character. Here, he is not far removed from the brutality he witnessed during World War II and his faith has severely waned. While aimlessly drifting through Egypt, Merrin is contracted to help in the excavation of a church that has been uncovered as part of an archaeological dig in Kenya. As their desecration begins, an evil is unleashed unto the land with unspeakable force. How much force you ask? Well, enough force to cause the MPAA of slapping a NC-17 rating on the film unless specific cuts were made. As Merrin continues his research strange things begin to happen to the village. Tribesmen fall into uncontrollable seizures, hyenas begin lurking amongst the workers and after a young boy is torn apart, his younger brother seems to be in a state reminiscent of Regan MacNeil. While the everyone from the Vatican to the British Army tries to interfere with the progress or the information being released as part of the dig, Merrin and the local doctor (Izabella Scorpuco) defy the warning signs of evil as they try to put the pieces of the churches puzzle together.

For a movie that is suppose to scare the pants off us, I didn't even feel a tug at my zipper. I was actually surprised at the lack of scares and how the film tried to resort to the usual tricks to try and induce jumps. Clocks that stop ticking, crosses that turn upside down when you're not looking and doors that open and close on their own have all been done before and wouldn't scare even my young nephew despite the fact that with each attempt they blast a sound bit so loud that it's obvious that they felt they needed the help. Also crippling the films credibility were the below average special effects. The hyenas were so CGI as to be distracting and the possessed individual in the final chapter comes after Father Merrin like something out of the Evil Dead series. In maybe the most ridiculous scene in the film, dead butterflies stuck to a hobby board begin fluttering. Scary indeed.

Maybe the filmmakers should have taken a look at the history of church related mysteries in the past five years. The Order and Stigmata proved that people are no longer interested in seeing religiously overtoned thrillers. Maybe the real horrors of war and its atrocities being broadcast over our breakfast tables have us more grounded in present day repugnance.

It would not be fair to bark at the acting in Exorcist: The Beginning simply because Stellan Skarsgård and company have so little to work with, they don't seem to be interested in their roles and let's face it – it's hard to take the bull by the horns when the bull is a donkey.

For all my bitching and complaining, I will give this stinker a ½ star. I did like the opening that had a wide angled shot that takes place after a war leaving thousands dead or dying on the battleground, and I will admit to not seeing the twist at the end of the film even if it was for lack of interest. But ½ star or no stars, my hopes is that people read this review and spare themselves the wallet ravaging to give this dog the box office it deserves.

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