Saturday, September 15, 2012

Renny Harlin Week: Exorcist- The Beginning

It's not the Beginning- it's the end.  Today's film is Exorcist: The Beginning- the third attempt to get this film made.  First, John Frankenheimer dropped out...and then died.  It's un-related to the film, but also a bit creepy.  It's kind of like how the guy who played the Doctor in Ed Wood's Jail Bait died the day after shooting- weird.  After that, they hired Paul Schrader, who Produced 'a psychological thriller' and not the 'bloody' film that the studio wanted.  They let him film the movie...and then decided that they didn't like it.  Well, if you're already $30 million in the hole with no film (that you like), why not just hire Renny Harlin and give him another $50 million?  Seemed like a fool-proof plan- apparently.  Well, the film they finally released was a Critical failure, but made back its budget.  Oh wait- it made back the budget of Harlin's film, not the total budget.  In hindsight, maybe you should have just made one movie and stuck with it.  This film supposedly tells the origin of Pazuzu and how it first battled the famous Priest from the 1973 Classic.  The result- a movie that's kind of hard to explain.  Here to explain it is...well, me.  To see if I'm up to the task, read on...
Sometime a long time ago, a Priest- who looks like Director Renny Harlin, but isn't- walks through a field full of dead bodies.  This is supposed to set something up...but there's not a whole lot of pay-off in the end.
In the present (of the 1940s), our Priest is hired from Stock Arabian Town #4 to find an artifact.  Since he has no faith, he might as well have money to buy booze, I guess!

Say hello to Ben Cross in one of his two scenes.  Hi and Bye, Ben!
They dig up a Church that appears to be Catholic, but there's no record of it.  Throw in the upset natives and you have a sticky situation.

What seems wrong in this situation to you?
Here's a fun game: take a shot every time that random noises or expressions make the Father flash back to when he worked in Germany.  This framing device is not silly or anything!
Maybe the Father can go to an expert for advice on the matter.  What can you tell him, former Priest?, I'll get back to you.  These lovely Kenyans are going to do an Exorcism (the only real one in the movie).  It will work well, provided that an evil spirit doesn't start breaking their limbs.
The Demon in the Church- which was apparently built to sanctify unholy ground- starts doing shit, including killing one guy with STD face and making the British Commander commit suicide.  How can we make this all tie together?
Oh naturally, the film's only white woman gets possessed by Pazuzu and attacks the Priest.  So does the demon have his own DNA, thus making the two look similar or is this just lazy writing?
 Regardless, the Priest exercises the spirit- for the time being- and ends by returning to the Vatican.  Now it all makes sense.  The End.
I hope it was worth the extra $50 million.  Never mind the fact that the Studio spent nearly the same amount of money as George W. Bush gave to AIDS Research during his Presidency on making this hokey film.  I'm not going to say that it's terrible- I'd have to get in line.  My biggest problem was just the way that it flowed- awkwardly.  It kind of meanders a bit towards the finish line, suddenly trying to sprint in the final minutes like a really bad Track Star.  It doesn't help that much of the film is centered around the Father investigating the background of the dig site, as opposed to, you know, the dig site.  Focus on what's in front of you.  On top of that, this slow pacing is dragged even further down with a pseudo-romance sub-plot with the Father and his random WWII flashbacks.  His memories are rough too, almost worse than anything that actually happens in the film's current plot.  As far as that current plot goes, it's nothing special.  After an hour, he confronts the Priest sent with him and says 'I know the truth.'  The Priest rebukes him at first, but then immediately buckles and says that everything he stated was accurate.  You'd make a terrible witness- I'm just saying.  In summary, the movie has its moments, but takes too long to get there.  Even so, I have to give them credit for this 'nod' to Return of the Living Dead and the re-animated butterflies...
Next up, a week of Forgotten Sequels available without discs.  First up, the vampire sequel that nobody requested...ever.  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. I watched it back to back with Dominion, the other Exorcist prequel. Both weak movies, but I definitely enjoyed Harlin's "Popcorn-Exorcist" more :)