Exorcist: The Beginning
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Exorcist: The Beginning can be found here.

Archeologist and ex-priest Father Lancaster Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) is asked to find an ancient relic believed to be hidden in a 5th century Byzantine church recently unearthed at the Duarte dig in Kenya. Excited by the fact that no Byzantine church has ever been found that far south, Merrin and young priest Father Francis (James D'Arcy) soon discover that the church sits on top of a more ancient pagan temple where they used to conduct human sacrifices. When inexplicable things begin to happen at the site, such as workers going mad, babies being stillborn, and a young boy torn apart by a pack of hyenas, it becomes obvious to everyone, even a non-believer like Fr Merrin, that the excavation has set free an ancient evil force.

No. Exorcist: The Beginning is a movie prequel to The Exorcist (1973), which was based on William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel of the same name. The storyline for this movie was taken from a screenplay co-written by writers William Wisher Jr, Caleb Carr, and Alexi Hawley, retooled from the already-completed screenplay for Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, which was released the following year.

Twenty-four (24) years. The events in The Exorcist take place in 1973, whereas the events in this movie take place in 1949.

The opening scenes show a priest stumbling across a battlefield in which thousands of men have been killed and thousands more crucified upside-down. From their clothing and weapons, it appears that these are the soldiers (as it is later explained to Fr Merrin) who were sent by the Roman Emperor to track down the Evil and destroy it but who were themselves driven mad by the Evil so that they turned on each other and slaughtered themselves. It is a foreshadowing of what is about to happen in this movie when the British soldiers and the Turkana warriors clash.

It is an icon of the head of Pazuzu, a mythical Sumerian demon. Although the name "Pazuzu" is not used in this movie, he shows up prominently in The Exorcist but is not mentioned by name until Exorcist II: The Heretic. Those who have seen The Exorcist may recall that the emergence of the demon figurine is an omen, which heralds the demon's impending manifestation and twisted influence.

His name is Semelier (Ben Cross). He works for the antiquities collector wishing to obtain the "rare object" from within the church before the British find it. Semelier gives Merrin a replica of the object. It resembles the icon of Pazuzu.

Most likely it's a goof that went undetected. Most critics believe the line was supposed to be "500 AD", which is corroborated later in the movie when Merrin dusts some sand off the tilework and notes that it should not look so new for a church built 1,500 years ago (which would place it around 500 AD) and again when Father Francis explains that there was a massacre at the Duarte dig 1,500 years ago. It is also explained that the priest in the opening scenes of the movie returned to Rome, advised the Emperor Justinian about the Evil, and Justinian ordered the church to be built. Justinian I reigned as Roman Emperor from 527-565 AD.

Where is Kenya located?

Kenya is a republic in East Africa. It is bordered on the north by Ethiopia and the Sudan, on the East by Somalia and the Indian Ocean, on the South by Tanzania, and on the West by Uganda. The capital city is Nairobi. A map of Africa showing Kenya can be viewed here.

The events in The Beginning take place 24 years prior to The Exorcist, although The Beginning was released 31 years after The Exorcist. Those who have seen both movies say that it does not make much difference in which order the movies are watched. However, one advantage to watching The Exorcist first would be to gain a better understanding of Pazuzu, the unnamed demon who is unearthed at the Duarte dig in The Beginning and who possesses Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) in The Exorcist.

In the context of the movie, Joseph's (Remy Sweeney) warning is unclear. Some viewers think that it was meant to warn Jeffries (Alan Ford) that the demon is coming to kill him; others think that the warning was for Sarah (Izabella Scorupco). Still others suggest that the warning was meant for both of them as the demon gained greater and greater control of the excavation site.

Toward the end of the movie, Fr Francis tells Merrin about a legend that says the Duarte dig was the spot where Lucifer landed when he was cast out of heaven.

When Sarah was in the concentration camp, the Nazis apparently mutilated her, most likely either damaging or removing her reproductive organs. This means she couldn't have her period, which is why she was confused about the bleeding, a signal that something was wrong.

The baby was stillborn (born dead) and had already begun to decay in utero...another example of all the strange things that were happening at the Duarte dig. The Turkana believe that it was due to the presence of the Whites, and Fr Francis fears an uprising. Consequently, he contacts Major Granville (Julian Wadham) to send a detachment in hopes of keeping the peace.

That was Bession (Patrick O'Kane), the lead archaeologist at the Duarte dig and the first to go into the church when it was uncovered. It drove him insane. Merrin visited him in the sanitarium in Niarobi and witnessed Bession killing himself.

How does the movie end?

Fr Francis and Joseph take refuge in the church from the sandstorm and from the Turkana who are trying to kill Joseph, believing him to be possessed by the demon, while Merrin goes in search of Sarah. Although he can't find Sarah, he finds her room to be covered with blood, swarming with maggots and flies, and finds an icon of Pazuzu. He also notices a photo of Sarah and her husband. Putting two and two together, Merrin concludes that Sarah accompanied her husband when he first entered the church and that it is her in which the demon has taken residence. Back in the church, Fr Francis attempts to exorcise Joseph but is killed by the demon in Sarah's body. Meanwhile, the British soldiers and the Turkana warriors have begun attacking each other. Racing to get back to Joseph and Fr Francis, Merrin loses the icon in the sand. When he finally gets inside the church, he sees that Fr Francis is missing. Realizing that he is the last hope, Merrin picks up Fr Francis' crucifix, alb, Rituale Romanum, and vial of holy water and begs God to forgive his doubt. Then he goes after the demon-possessed Sarah. They pursue each other through the halls and tunnels of the netherchurch. At one point, Sarah threatens to break Joseph's neck; at another point, Merrin tries again to exorcise the demon from Sarah's body. Finally, Merrin hands Joseph the Rituale Romanum, shows him where to read, and they say the exorcism together. This time he is successful, the demon leaves Sarah's body, but she falls battered and bleeding to the ground and dies in Merrin's arms. Merrin and Joseph dig themselves out of the church to find that the British soldiers and Turkana warriors have annihilated each other. In the final scene, Merrin meets again with Semelier this time in Rome. He returns the replica of the demon, saying that he could not find what they were looking for. "But you found something, didn't you?" Semelier asks. Merrin walks away without comment. "Au revoir, Mr Merrin," Semelier says. Merrin replies, "It's Father Merrin."

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 6 months ago
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