Years before Father Lankester Merrin helped save Regan MacNeil's soul, he first encounters the demon Pazuzu in East Africa. Merrin's initial battle with Pazuzu leads to the rediscovery of his faith.


Paul Schrader
3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Stellan Skarsgård ... Father Lankester Merrin
Gabriel Mann ... Father Francis
Clara Bellar Clara Bellar ... Rachel Lesno
Billy Crawford ... Cheche
Ralph Brown ... Sergeant Major
Israel Oyelumade ... Jomo (as Israel Aduramo)
Andrew French Andrew French ... Chuma
Antonie Kamerling ... Kessel
Julian Wadham ... Major Granville
Eddie Osei Eddie Osei ... Emekwi
Ilario Bisi-Pedro Ilario Bisi-Pedro ... Sebituana
Niall Refoy Niall Refoy ... Corporal (Thief)
Lorenzo Camporese Lorenzo Camporese ... Private (Thief)
Burt Caesar Burt Caesar ... Dr. Lamu
Marcello Santoni Marcello Santoni ... Dutch Farmer


Lankester Merrin is a archaeologist by profession but an ordained Roman Catholic priest who has lost his faith and abandoned his vocation. He is haunted by what he was forced to do in his native Holland during World War II. The church he's excavated in Northern Kenyan dates to the Byzantine period but this puts its construction hundreds of years before Christianity was introduced to the area. the church was buried to the rooftop in sand and as its structure is exposed, a madness slowly descends on the camp. the local tribesmen are prepared to go to war and demand that the church be buried. Soon, two British soldiers are found dead and their commanding officer, Major Granville, shoots a innocent civilian in cold blood. As fear descends upon everyone in the camp, it becomes apparent that a young disabled boy, Cheche, is possessed by the devil forcing Merrin to re-examine his own beliefs. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Before the Legend You Know, is the Story of How Evil Began.


Drama | Horror | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and disturbing images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Stellan Skarsgård is playing a younger version of Max von Sydow's character from The Exorcist (1973). Skarsgård is nearly a decade older than von Sydow was during the filming of the original movie. See more »


The Waffen-SS officer at the beginning of the movie has no rank or SS Rune collar tabs on his tunic, and he's wearing a Private's greatcoat with privates shoulder straps. See more »


[first lines]
Kessel: I am Obersturmfuhrer Ralph Kessel from the S.S., and this is one of my men. We found him in a ditch with a kitchen knife in his back, murdered by one of you. You see the German army retreating, and it makes you feel hope. It should not. So, who is responsible for this?
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Crazy Credits

At the extreme end of the end credits, after the last production company logo has faded out and the screen is entirely black, a demon voice grumbles "I am perfection". See more »


Featured in Hagan Reviews: Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2012) See more »


Satan's March
by Todd Smith, Jason Stepp, Michael Oliver, Jeff Siegel p/k/a Dog Fashion Disco
Published by Hug the Retard, LLC
Performed by Todd Smith, Jasan Stepp
Michael Oliver, Jeff Siegel p/k/a/ Dog Fashion Disco
Courtesy of Artemis Records
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User Reviews

Father Merrin arrives in Africa and battling Pazuzu at a buried church in some chilling scenes
27 June 2006 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

After a massacre by the Gestapo Nazi during WWII , in postwar (1947) a young Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) goes East Africa . Merrin is a parish priest from Holland with archaeological bent , he realized six archaeological digs since the war . He's listed still as a displaced person . There finds a simple Jesuit , father Francis (Gabriel Mann) who studied his works at the Maryknoll center . Francis is quite an admirer of Merrin , he about to begin missionary work in the Turkana district , he thinks may be they could help each other . It's found a dig in right west of Lake Rudolph in the Turkana district a church is early Christian which makes for quite a mystery given its location . A Cardinal is concerned that the exploration of this significance is conducted by a priest which is temporary in sabbatical and with no faith . Architecture church seems to date to the fifth century when the Byzantine empire had adopted Christianity by then but they never got this far south but the stones look new but they should be badly weathered by the wind and sun . Church has representations about battles on the walls and ceiling of angels (Saint Michael) and demons (Satan) . In the location Merrin encounters a Jewish Polish (Clara Bellar) and a British detachment ruled by a nutty Major (Waham) and a sergeant (Ralph Brown) . A little boy is possessed by harmful spirit and father Perrin confronts against the demon Pazuzu and he makes exorcism to save a young boy from dark forces......

This is a terrifying and startling story about possession with usual poltergeist phenomenon caused by the supernatural demon . Nice acting by Stellan Skarsgård , he is playing a younger version of Max Von Sydow's character from The exorcist (1973). Skarsgård is nearly a decade older than Von Sydow was during the filming of the original movie . Special effects , colorful cinematography (by Vittorio Storaro) , creepy music (Trevor Ravin , Angelo Badalamenti) and intelligence by director Paul Schrader , all combined to make it a good film . The original Exorcist(Friedkin) film spread a wave of demonic possessions movies that continues unbated today such as ¨The changeling¨, ¨Amytiville¨,¨Darkness¨ ; besides the sequels as ¨Exorcist II¨ (by John Boorman) , ¨Exorcist III¨ (by William Peter Blatty) and prequels ¨The beginning¨ and ¨Dominion¨ . This rare film not for squeamish and is better than ¨Beginning¨ , being shot at the same time, remaining Paul Schrader's version for the market video . Paul Schrader was originally hired as director of The Exorcist : The beginning (2004) , but Morgan Creek ultimately rejected his "psychological thriller" approach, saying it was "commercially unmarketable" . The decision was made to extensively rewrite and re-shoot the script, re-cast several roles , add new roles and give the director's chair to Renny Harlin . Schrader's version was originally supposed to be released direct to video, as a bonus feature on the DVD release of Harlin's version . Although is a prequel of prior movie , it's one the highest earning horror picture of the last years .

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Official Sites:

Official site


USA | Italy | Morocco



Release Date:

1 August 2005 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Exorcist: The Original Prequel See more »


Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$140,703, 22 May 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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