Exorcist IV: The Beginning review by Matt Fuerst
Let's see, the story goes something like this. In the original Exorcist, it is mentioned that the old guffer had some exorcism adventures in Africa earlier in life. Greedy producers in the 2000's thanked heaven for this nugget and decided to expand upon it in a lame attempt to cash in. We join Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) as a unfaithful retired priest, now an archaeologist. In Indiana Jones style, a rare find has occurred in Africa and a mysterious stranger appears to entice Merrin into joining the dig. Following the Indiana Jones formulae, Merrin is hesitant at first, then a personal nerve is struck and Merrin has a miraculous change of heart! Off we go Indy!
Merrin arrives in Africa with a Priest protege from the Vatican to find a Christian church buried in the middle of the desert. The church dates from a thousand years before Christianity arrived in that area of Africa, so your curiosity is supposed to be piqued by it's presence (I know how it got there, Aliens, or was that, Predators!). To further set the mood other general spooky stuff is happening: hyenas are appearing during the day, workers on the dig get sick and go into convulsions and the former dig leader is now in a mental asylum. Cue the scary music people, if you ain't scared by now (and you won't be) then you won't be scared at all (you won't be).
The story progresses with lots of ridiculous trimmings added on. The mandatory love story is forced. I doubt anyone really wanted a love story in the movie, but it's a Hollywood movie so you need a story I guess. To apparently add some action elements, since the horrific elements aren't going to hold your attention, a small war breaks out between the tribal workers and the British imperialists. Blah blah blah.
I knew that Exorcist IV (I know it has some sort of subtitle, but I don't give the movie enough respect to even look it up, it undoubtedly shed the IV numbering to try to seem more legitimate, and it isn't) had a lot of problems during the shoot (with a director replacement mid-stream) but I was very much willing to overlook that. Attached as a writer for Exorcist was Caleb Carr, who wrote just the absolutely amazing book The Alienist. But I don't know what in the world he was thinking here. I would have rejected even a 1 page outline of this movie, and it only got worse when the details were filled in.
The movie features some of the worst blue screening I have seen since E.T. E.T. is pretty rockin' when you are like 6, but if you ever catch it again as a grownup you wonder how the blue screen guy didn't lose his job. Mixed in with the horrible Merrin walking along the desert blue screen shots are some really bad CG rendering jobs. I think they used the Quake I engine to render some of the town shots because they looked as fake as a bad toupee. Skarsgard is usually pretty good in his roles and I don't have any real complaints with what he did with the material. Some of his work, his flashbacks about losing faith in particular, may have been a little over the top but I would tend to blame the material he was working with. The femme wasn't blistering, but was hot enough to raise this stinker from a 1 to a 2.
Since I've already put at least 6 or 7 minutes into this review, along with the 100 or so minutes to watch the movie, I mean-as-well pitch in my $0.02 of enthusiasm for Exorcist III (AKA Legion). Personally I find III to be far and away the best of the Exorcist series (not saying much against II and IV I realize). Blatty, who wrote the original Exorcist book, wrote the book, screenplay and directed Exorcist III. Really an interesting story with some genuine scares as well. III is the only Exorcist you'll find in my DVD Cabinet. I can't wait to hear how much I suck for disrespecting The Exorcist, but face it, if you were scared by the Exorcist, then you are likely older than 40.
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