(ru) wrote: I know, it's a sin to enjoy Exorcist: The Beginning, but I cannot deny that I thoroughly enjoyed this reviled horror film. I probably shouldn't, given that my all-time favorite horror film is The Exorcist, and many fans of the original film cannot stand the sequels and prequels...I'm not one of them. Exorcist II: The Heretic? I love that weird, crazy, batshit insane metaphysical drama/fantasy/sci-fi/horror flick in all its lurid, messy, unintentionally funny, oddly intriguing, and oddly compelling glory (I even gave it 4.5/5 stars. I love it, so sue me). The Exorcist III? One of my favorite horror films and I consider to be one of the most unfairly criticized sequels in cinematic history (Along with other horror films like Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, Psycho II, and Jaws 2, to name a few). I can understand why people hated the second film and both prequels, but I will defend The Exorcist III until my dying day as a damn good horror flick that deserves a lot better than what it got. Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist? I love that one, too.For this entry of the series, I love it. I think that is a very fascinating, creepy, and intriguing film, even though there are undeniable flaws. Much like other entries of the series, I don't think that it deserves the lashing that it gets from critics and audiences. It's certainly not the best entry of The Exorcist franchise, but I think that it is a worthy entry, regardless of the fans that will have my head for this opinion.The story focuses on Father Lankester Merrin, the old priest from the original film, but in his younger years. In 1949, years after World War II, he has abandoned his faith and is no longer a priest after a horrific event during the war for which he was forced to choose villagers in his parish to die at the hands of Nazi soldiers to save the rest of them (Though this prequel never states why. In Dominion, it is because a villager killed a Nazi soldier, and no one confesses, so Father Merrin is forced to pick a certain number of villagers to die).Years later and disillusioned with his faith, he mostly works as an archaeologist. He is approached by the British to help excavate a strange finding in Kenya, in which a Christian church was found buried in the sand and is found to be dated long before Christianity ever reached the region. Along with working with the British, a priest from the Vatican is sent to oversee the dig and investigate the strange finding. The village by the dig site is also rather unnerving, since 50 years earlier, the entire village was said to have died from a mysterious plague (To which Merrin asks something on the lines of, "If all the villagers died, then who buried the bodies?").Of course, the strange find has proved to be terrifying to the villagers who participated in the dig, as many excavators have either left or disappeared due to the strange occurrences that have happened since the church was discovered. At the dig site, he meets the chief excavator who is covered in boils and is constantly drunk and belligerent, a nurse named Sarah who is living with trauma from the Holocaust, and his guide, Chuma, who serves as a go-between for the villagers and the British.Of course, hearing all the strange things happening at the site, Merrin is concerned, especially when they venture into the church and make strange discoveries, like how the church appears to have been buried immediately after construction because of its pristine condition, how the angel statues inside are holding weapons and pointing them downward as if to hold something back, and it also appears that someone has desecrated the crucifixion statue by turning it upside down Things take more frightening turns when Merrin tries to talk with one of the head excavators, only to learn that he has gone mad, and upon visiting him, the man kills himself by slashing his own throat while Merrin watches. And with the influx of hyenas, a young boy is brutally mauled to death by a pack of hyenas while his younger brother, father, and Merrin watch in horror as he is dragged away screaming in agony to be torn apart by the hyenas.As they investigate further, things only become increasingly terrifying for Merrin, the research team, and the villagers as the strange happenings claim more and more lives and thoughts of demonic possession gain traction, forcing Merrin to confront his past, his demons, and fight for his own survival.The storyline can be a bit of a mess, but that mostly has to do with the troubled production of the prequels, which began when film-maker Paul Schrader made his own prequel, Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist, which didn't meet the standards of Warner Bros. (Which the financial backers apparently wanted to have buckets of gore to satisfy modern audiences), causing Warner Bros. to fire Schrader and shelve his version before getting Renny Harlin to direct his own version, Exorcist: The Beginning. So, because of this, each prequel has things to like and dislike, making the viewer wish they could pick and choose what they liked and wishing they could be made into one cohesive film.With this film (And Dominion), it certainly has its goofy moments (Like how Merrin when asked by Sarah, seems to be alright despite witnessing a man commit suicide and a child being mauled to death by hyenas shortly after both events occurred, and also having recurring nightmares about what happened in his parish during the war), plot holes (This entry doesn't bother to explain why Merrin was forced to pick villagers to die), strange amounts of gore at times (The gore sometimes reminded me of Japanese exploitation films like Lady Snowblood or the Quentin Tarantino homage to that film, Kill Bill Vol. 1), and just flat out what-the-fuck moments (The British major killing himself upon seeing his butterfly collection come to life). Still, despite these moments, I found myself interested in the story, even if it didn't flow as well as it could have (Then again, considering my tremendous fondness of Exorcist II: The Heretic, it shouldn't come as a surprise).I found myself wanting to know more about the mysterious church, the seemingly cursed village, and all the strange happenings, as well as the interesting exploration of faith for Father Merrin (Though admittedly, Dominion did it better). It's an ambitious story that doesn't get some things right, but I felt that it got most things right, and it made most of the elements compelling and interesting.The acting is also surprisingly good, considering this film's horrid reputation, especially from actor Stellan Skarsgard (Who also played Jan in the superb, Breaking The Waves, which itself was a fascinating exploration into the nature of faith). His performance as the troubled Merrin is especially terrific, and he managed to remain level, even when the script teetered into absurdity (Which is also the case in Dominion, as he played the same character in that film). He certainly stands above his fellow cast members, but the rest of the cast is also pretty solid by themselves. Still, his performance as the troubled Merrin was something to watch, especially with how his character is forced to confront evil that no logical, clinical explanation could explain away. I found him to be convincing and powerful as his character is forced to confront such horrors.As far as entertainment goes, I found this film to be a creepy, slow-building, fascinating trek into a frightening evil that forces its characters to confront something from beyond the earthly realm. While it does have its goofy moments, I thought it was rather frightening at times, especially with its suitably gruesome imagery (A boy being mauled by hyenas, a stillborn baby covered in maggots, crows feeding on mutilated corpses, etc.). I was frightening, fascinated, compelled, and intrigued from start to finish - perhaps even riveted - with its exploration into evil, the nature of faith, and confronting past demons.Exorcist: The Beginning is a flawed film. In fact, it is my least favorite of The Exorcist franchise (Yes, between the prequels, I like Dominion a little bit better). Despite its flaws, however, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with this entry of the franchise and I think of it as a worthy piece of lore to a franchise that is ripe with opportunities for expanding upon its lore. I won't guarantee that you'll love it, but I think that if you enjoy The Exorcist franchise that it is worth seeing at least once, perhaps twice to give it the benefit of the doubt.