Exorcist: The Beginning
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7 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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Traffic stop leads to piracy bust

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

A routine traffic stop in Los Angeles led police and MPAA investigators to uncover an illegal DVD replicating lab and make three arrests Thursday, according to the trade group. In the stopped car, police found materials suggesting a link to counterfeit DVD makers. A search of the person's home later turned up stacks of bootleg DVDs and the discover of the lab. Arron Munoz, 32, Edward Alonso, 18 and Jesus Crus, 18, were arrested and later charged with one felony count of violating a California law that makes it illegal to fail to disclose the origin of a recording or audiovisual work. Authorities seized about 12,000 counterfeit DVDs, six DVD burning towers, nearly 20 VCRs and other replicating equipment. The pirated movies include such recent releases as Exorcist: The Beginning, Collateral and The Bourne Supremacy. »

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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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Boxoffice preview: Late-summer pics primed for fall

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

As far as the boxoffice is concerned, summer's over. Neither of this weekend's two wide arrivals, the Paramount Pictures comedy Without a Paddle and Warner Bros. Pictures' Exorcist: The Beginning, is likely to reach the heights typical of summer openers. In fact, 20th Century Fox's Alien vs. Predator could hold on to the top spot for the second weekend in a row, even though it's expected to be hit by a 60% drop. The double-franchise thriller, which scored $38.2 million in its opening frame, is likely to gross in the $13 million-$15 million range. The number should be comparable with New Line Cinema's Freddy vs. Jason, which dropped 64% in its sophomore session a year ago. Meanwhile, Buena Vista's Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement is likely to maintain its second-place ranking from last week. The sequel to 2001's surprise hit earned $23 million over the three-day frame. This weekend's take should be in the $11 million-$13 million range. »

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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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7 items from 2004


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