Filled with maggoty babies, murdered children and even a wet nekkid woman, Exorcist: The Beginning is less a fully formed franchise product than a bunch of naughty bits strung together and begging to be spanked. Almost entirely reshot by hired hack Renny Harlin after Paul Schrader turned in a film deemed unacceptable by the studio, this prequel takes us through the early days of Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård, looking understandably bored after shooting two different versions of the same movie). Having turned in his collar due to his no-choice complicity in Nazi atrocities, Merrin has become a faith-free postwar archeologist hired to check out a buried church in Africa. The place boasts an upside-down crucifix and carvings of the demon Pazuzzu always bad signs in our book. Soon, CGI hyenas are scarfing kids, a crazy French man is carving a swastika on his chest, a Satanic dust storm meanders in from the set of the latest Mummy film, etc. If this laundry list of horror makes the movie sound interesting, it's not: The effects blow, there are plot holes a supersized Humvee could drive through and the suspense is neutralized from the get-go. Since we know Merrin will one day regain his faith, reach his 70s and go on to be played by Max Von Sydow, why should we give a damn about what happens to him here?
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