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Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)

1:24 | Trailer
Years before Father Lankester 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.


Renny Harlin


William Peter Blatty (movie The Exorcist), William Wisher (story) | 2 more credits »
6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Stellan Skarsgård ... Father Merrin
Izabella Scorupco ... Sarah
James D'Arcy ... Father Francis
Remy Sweeney ... Joseph
Julian Wadham ... Major Granville
Andrew French Andrew French ... Chuma
Ralph Brown ... Sergeant Major
Ben Cross ... Semelier
David Bradley ... Father Gionetti
Alan Ford ... Jefferies
Antonie Kamerling ... Lieutenant Kessel
Eddie Osei Eddie Osei ... Emekwi
Israel Oyelumade ... Jomo (as Israel Aduramo)
Patrick O'Kane ... Bession
James Bellamy James Bellamy ... James
Learn more

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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:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The screenplay had a long and painful gestation process. William Peter Blatty refused to get involved, resulting in many years 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. See more »


The machine gun that the British Soldiers set up and use against the African tribe is a German MG42. Although the movie is set post WW2, it is very unlikely that the British Army would have recycled this weapon into their artillery. See more »


Sarah: [Possessed] What's the matter, Merrin? Don't you wanna fuck me any more?
See more »


Referenced in Yes Man (2008) See more »


Call to Prayers
Composed by Robert J. Walsh
Courtesy of FirstCom Music
See more »

User Reviews

The Devil You Say! Could It Be...Satan?!!?
23 August 2004 | by george.schmidtSee all my reviews

EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (2004) ** Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco, James D'Arcy, Remy Sweeney, Julian Wadham, Andrew French, Ralph Brown, Ben Cross, David Bradley, Alan Ford. (Dir: Renny Harlin) The Devil You Say! – Could It Be…Satan?!!? The prequel – the sequel's red-headed stepchild in the world of film – has been kicking around for a few decades trying to gain the dubious respect it's more successful (read: lucrative) cinematic sibling has had in spades. The odds are always stacked against it in the sense that it has its built in audience but they have the inside scoop (i.e. they know the story of its characters before they do and know that the outcome – no matter how perilous or challenging – will be anti-climactic since the characters are already set in the original film that spawned its bastard child).

EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING is a prime example in the fact that its 1973 precursor is vastly superior in its tale of the supernatural that set the gold standard in mixing chills, The Devil, spirituality, man's conflict with his own flaws (i.e. inner demons best kept at bay) and viscerally stomach-churning make-up effects. The huge box-office success and critical acclaim quickly led to a cash-in follow up: EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977) which bombed and the barely registered 1990 chapter THE EXORCIST III (Trivia note: when this film came out I went to see it as part of a double bill at the drive-in which featured YOUNG GUNS II; both films were so boring I didn't even watch them. This, by the way, was my last trip to the drive-in to boot). Anyway I digress.

So does the latest episode of the hindered would-be franchise with its settings in Africa where Father Mirren (Skarsgard, perfectly cast as the Max von Sydow role) circa 1949 is attempting to forget nightmarish atrocities from WWII as a priest who has lost his faith and wound up as an archeologist requested by a mysterious benefactor (Cross) to a dig that has unearthed a 1,500 intact church buried mysteriously in the sand. It is here he will come into contact with the demon Pazuzu (AKA – Satan) who plagued his character in the first film by possessing little Regan, the Linda Blair character.

Mirren meets a beautiful young doctor named Sarah (the exotically gorgeous Scorupco, best known as the 'good' Bond girl in Pierce Brosnan's maiden voyage as James Bond in 'GOLDENEYE') who is there to take care of the natives who've been infected with an unusual infection that has also riddled their chief digger Jeffries (Ford, best known for the malevolent gang leader Bricktop in Guy Ritchie's SNATCH), with some truly gnarly pustules oozing on his kisser.

Also in the midst are a military outfit in cahoots with the Catholic church that young priest Father Francis (D'Arcy uncannily channeling a young Timothy Hutton) is assigned to make sure the proceedings at hand keep the religious artifact intact for historical preservation.

Yeah, yeah, blah, blah – get to the devil! OK there are several truly unnerving violent sequences including a homicidal hyena pack tearing a small child to bits (mercilessly yet off-camera in the final moments); a murder of crows apparently left over from THE OMEN flicks; two nasty suicides; pools of blood; bed-rattling (an homage to the first flick) and the usual over-the-top genre GOTCHAS! (i.e. lights going out; powerful howling winds; etc).

The film has been in a state of limbo for almost two years due to many pre-and post production maladies including the sudden death of its first hired director, the late, great John Frankenheimer; Liam Neeson, the first choice to portray the young, conflicted Mirren balked at the last moment causing a stop in production for re-casting; second director Paul Schrader's finished work scrapped due to the studio fearing it wasn't scary enough (this supposedly will re-surface on the film's DVD release – that is Warner Bros. is to showcase this version with the one released to the public); and many, many other tribulations that third director Renny Harlin ('DIE HARD 2'; 'DEEP BLUE SEA') had to overcome to FINALLY get the project released.

To add insult to injury the film was not screened to critics prior to the release, which is always the death knell for a stinker. And sadly I'm hastened to admit the film is pretty bad.

It doesn't have the visceral scare factor the initial film did nor does it sustain much interest in the fact that much exposition is given for the first 2/3rds of the film but Skarsgard is a fine choice as his fellow Dane von Sydow's tormented priest whose background we are given as to being a true baptism of fire thanks to another stock villain: the Nazis in flashbacks depicting their usual sadism.

Scorupco is equally good and I've always had a thing for her (think of a more erotic Angelina Jolie and there ya go!) and the young Sweeney is very good as a small native child under the evil spell of the devil.

But frankly the film is again not scary or foreboding enough to recommend but thankfully is not the turkey it was predicted to be even though Harlin overdoes some of the aforementioned tricks of the trade and particularly the climactic battles between the Africans who want the whites out of their village causing all sorts of violent acts.

Hopefully we've seen the last of Pazuzu.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

20 August 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Exorcist IV See more »

Filming Locations:

Casablanca, Morocco See more »


Box Office


$80,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$18,054,001, 22 August 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (Unrated Version)

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
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