Exorcist: The Beginning
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Exorcist: The Beginning is a 2004 American supernatural horror film directed by Renny Harlin. The film serves as a prequel to The Exorcist (1973) and is the fourth installment in The Exorcist series. It stars Stellan Skarsgård, Izabella Scorupco, and James D Arcy.

Exorcist: The Beginning was retooled from Paul Schrader s already completed Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, which Morgan Creek Productions executives feared would be unsuccessful. The film was released in the United States on August 20, 2004, by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Reviews for Exorcist: The Beginning were overwhelmingly negative, and it was a financial failure. Schrader was subsequently allowed to release his version, Dominion, which was somewhat better reviewed than Renny Harlin s film but still earned mostly negative reviews.


In Cairo, Egypt in 1949, a young Father Lankester Merrin struggles with his shattered faith. He is haunted by an incident in a small village in the occupied Netherlands during World War II, where he served as parish priest: near the end of the war, a sadistic Nazi SS commander, in retaliation for the murder of a German trooper, forced Merrin to participate in arbitrary executions in order to save a full village from slaughter.

Merrin is approached by a collector of antiquities named Semelier who invites him to come to a British excavation in a valley called Derati in the Turkana region of British Kenya. The dig excavates a Christian Byzantine-era church built circa 500 A.D. — long before Christianity had reached that region of Africa. Semelier asks Merrin to recover an ancient relic of a demon, thought to be in the church, before the British can find it. Merrin agrees and travels to the dig site. He is joined by Father Francis.

Upon arriving at the site with their translator and guide Chuma, Merrin meets the chief excavator, a brutish man named Jefferies with visible boils on his face and Sarah Novak, a doctor. In addition, Merrin learns that the diggers are disappearing or leaving in droves because the local tribesmen fear the church is cursed. Merrin witnesses a digger inexplicably experience a seizure.

Merrin, Chuma, and Francis visit the dig site and finds only the dome uncovered; the rest of the church is buried beneath the earth. Merrin discovers that the church is in perfect condition, as though it had been buried immediately after its construction was completed. The three enter the church through the dome and find the place in near-pristine condition, but note two disturbing oddities; the statues of the angels holding weapons point their spears downward instead of triumphantly toward heaven. and that someone has vandalized and desecrated the church placing Christ on the cross in an upside-down position. Merrin and Francis deduce the sculptors were trying to depict the angels restraining something that was beneath the church.

Determined to learn more about the archaeological dig, Merrin asks to consult with the lead archaeologist, Monsieur Bession. Sarah tells Merrin that Bession went insane three weeks earlier and was transferred to a mental hospital in Nairobi. Merrin visits Bession s tent at the dig site and sees dozens of drawings of the same demon artifact the collector had asked Merrin to find. Merrin visits Bession, but when he enters his room, he discovers Bession has carved a Hooked Cross on his chest and is speaking in the voice of the sadistic SS commander who tormented Merrin during the war. Bession then slashes his own throat after saying he was free . Father Gionetti, warden of the asylum, speculates that Bession was not possessed but rather touched by a demon, which drove him mad and eventually to suicide. Merrin is very skeptical, but before he returns to the dig site, Father Gionetti gives him the volume of Roman rituals to use in exorcism, although Merrin claims he will never use them.

Upon returning to the village, strange events continue. A local boy is attacked and killed by hyenas that seem to continuously stalk the dig, night and day. His younger brother, Joseph, enters a fugue state after watching his brother get ripped to pieces. The local chief s wife gives birth to a stillborn baby who is covered in maggots and Jefferies, a man involved with the dig, gets attacked in the bar. Around the same time, Merrin discovers a passageway leading to a cave underneath the church that houses an ancient pagan temple with the statue of the demon Pazuzu. He also finds evidence that this temple was used to conduct human sacrifices. Upon his return, he sees the local tribe cremate the stillborn baby. This makes Merrin suspicious, because there are stories of an epidemic that wiped out an entire village in the valley 50 years earlier. He had been told that the dead were buried in a graveyard just outside the valley. When he digs up the graves of the supposed victims of this plague, they are empty.

Merrin confronts Father Francis about it, and Francis reveals to him the history of the Derati valley; a great army led by two priests came to the valley searching for the origin of evil 1,500 years prior. When they arrived in the valley, the evil presence consumed them and one killed the other. When the lone surviving priest made it back, Emperor Justinian ordered a church be built over the site, and then buried to seal the evil force inside of it. The builders of the church never meant it to be recorded in Vatican documents, however, a vague reference to it was recorded and found in 1893. Four priests subsequently came to Derati and enlisted the local tribe to help them. All of the tribesmen and the priests disappeared. The Vatican then ordered that the false graveyard be built and stories of a plague spread around to keep people away from the valley. Francis reveals that it is believed that the valley in Derati was the traditional spot of Lucifer s fall after the war in heaven. Later Merrin, Chuma and Major Granville discover Jefferies tied up in the Church, with his organs pecked out by crows.

The dig s doctor, Sarah, turns out to be the possessed individual and she kills Francis. Merrin has the demon exorcised from her in the tunnels below the church but she dies. Merrin and Joseph emerge from the church, (once again buried in sand) and history has repeated itself. Only Father Merrin and the little boy are left as the British soldiers and the local tribes have annihilated each other. Sometime later Merrin once again a priest returns to Rome and meets with Semelier at a cafe, explaining he was unable to find the relic, Semelier replies: But you found something….Didn t you?


  • Stellan Skarsgård as Father Lankester Merrin
  • Izabella Scorupco as Sarah Novak
  • James D Arcy as Father Francis
  • Ralph Brown as Sergeant Major
  • Julian Wadham as Major Granville
  • Andrew French as Chuma
  • Ben Cross as Semelier
  • Remy Sweeney as Joseph
  • David Bradley as Father Gionetti
  • Alan Ford as Jefferies
  • Antonie Kamerling as Lieutenant Kessel
  • Eddie Osei as Emekwi
  • Israel Aduramo as Jomo
  • Patrick O Kane as Bession
  • James Bellamy as James
  • Rupert Degas as Pazuzu


Producer James G. Robinson first began development on an untitled prequel to The Exorcist in 1997, with the first draft of the screenplay penned byTerminator 2: Judgment Day co-writer William Wisher Jr. In October 1999, Morgan Creek Productions hired Tom McLoughlin, director of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, to helm the film. With a script finally in place, production was slated to occur the following spring in Africa. McLoughlin departed due to issues with the script. In October 2001, numerous publications reported that John Frankenheimer was on board as director, with a new screenplay revised by Caleb Carr. Liam Neeson was attached to portray the character of Father Lankester Merrin. William Peter Blatty was not expected to take part in the production. After a July 2003 release date was slotted, Frankenheimer was forced to step down from the project due to his declining health and was replaced by Paul Schrader. Gabriel Mann joined the cast in April 2002, while shooting was expected to take place in the spring in the United Kingdom and Spain. The following month, the film was officially titled Exorcist: The Begininng and Stellan Skarsgård and Billy Crawford were added to the cast, the former of which replacing Neeson. Principal photography on Schrader s film began on November 11, 2002 in Morocco with Vittorio Storaro handling cinematography duties. The crew spent six weeks filming in Morocco and then a further two months in Rome. By the time filming had wrapped in February 2003, six writers had contributed to the screenplay and the budget had nearly doubled.

An early cut of Schrader s film that ran at 130 minutes was shown to the studio in early 2003. The cut was widely derided due to a lack of scares and gore. The studio at first opted to re-edit the film to make it scarier, which Schrader opposed. Additional photography was then planned, which according to Schrader only grew bigger and bigger as time went on. Schrader attested that he faithfully adapted Carr s screenplay on screen and that the studio went through buyer s remorse during production. Later reports indicated that Schrader was first given the option to re-edit the film twice, with neither cut managing to satisfy the studio. Sheldon Kahn was brought in to re-cut the film without Schrader s involvement. Schrader was livid and reportedly demanded that Kahn leave. By then, the studio met with other filmmakers to direct new scenes to make the film scarier. Carr was expected for rewrites, but instead the studio opted to fire Schrader and scrap the film entirely in August 2003. Morgan Creek sought for a new director starting in October.

Renny Harlin was among the directors who met with Robinson and suggested to rewrite the script, cast new actors, and add in more action. The studio was impressed and hired Harlin. Harlin quickly began overseeing rewrites by Skip Woods. Alexi Hawley and Harlin himself penned subsequent revisions. Skarsgård was the only cast member retained from the original shoot. In November 2003, special makeup effects artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe confirmed he would be involved with the film. Filming under Harlin s direction began in the winter of 2003 in Rome. Two weeks into production, the director s leg was shattered after being struck by a car, resulting in a two week hiatus for filming. Harlin shot six weeks on crutches. Production concluded after twelve weeks. By June 2004, work was still being done on the film. The film was finished mere days before its official release. After initially being given a $35 million budget under Schrader s direction, the reshoots and post-production work ballooned the film s budget to over $90 million.


Exorcist: The Beginning was released on August 20, 2004 by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and VHS on March 1, 2005. The film was released for the first time on blu-ray on September 23, 2014. Sony Pictures re-released the film on October 13, 2020.


Box office

Exorcist: The Beginning grossed $41.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $36.2 million in international territories, for a worldwide total of $78.1 million.

On its opening weekend, the film grossed $18 million, earning the top spot at the box office. With a budget that spiraled up to over $90 million, the film was unsuccessful at the box office.

Critical reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Exorcist: The Beginning holds an approval rating of 11% from 133 reviews, with an average rating of 3.6/10. The site s consensus reads A mediocre, gory horror film, nowhere near the quality of the 1973 original . On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average of 30 out of 100 based on 22 reviews, indicating generally unfavorable reviews .

William Peter Blatty (the author/screenwriter of The Exorcist) said that watching Exorcist: The Beginning was his most humiliating professional experience . On the other hand, Blatty said that Dominion is a handsome, classy, elegant piece of work .

Roger Ebert wrote: I ve seen both versions and much prefer Schrader s, and yet it must be said that Harlin did not prostitute himself in his version .

Exorcist: The Beginning was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards, Worst Director and Worst Remake or Sequel, but lost to two other Warner Bros. films, Catwoman and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, respectively.

Year 2004
ReleaseDate 2004-08-20
RuntimeMins 114
RuntimeStr 1h 54min
Plot Years before Father Lankester Merrin helped save Regan MacNeil’s soul, he first encounters the demon Pazuzu in East Africa. This is the tale of Father Merrin’s initial battle with Pazuzu and the rediscovery of his faith.
Awards Awards, 6 nominations
Directors Renny Harlin
Writers William Peter Blatty, William Wisher, Caleb Carr
Stars Stellan Skarsgård, Izabella Scorupco, James D’Arcy
Produced by Omneya Nini Mazen,Guy McElwaine,Wayne Morris,David Robinson,James G. Robinson
Music by Trevor Rabin
Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro
Film Editing by Mark Goldblatt,Todd E. Miller
Casting By Pam Dixon
Production Design by Stefano Maria Ortolani
Art Direction by Eugenio Ulissi,Andy Nicholson
Set Decoration by Carlo Gervasi
Costume Design by Luke Reichle
Makeup Department Blake Bolger,Hayat Ouled Dahhou,Siham Ouled Dahhou,Barbara De Leonardis,Giancarlo De Leonardis,Emma Deacon,Sam Debree,Maria Federico,Christopher K. Grap,Eric Harris,Snowy Highfield,Raffaella Iorio,Steven Lawrence,Steven Lawrence,Richard Maybery,Mike J. Regan,Francesco Scaramella,Fabrizio Sforza,Marlene Stoller,Gary J. Tunnicliffe,Claire Jane Vranian,Grady Holder,Christopher Allen Nelson,Carla Vicenzino
Production Management Khadija Alami,Edmondo Amati Jr.,Wayne Morris,Riccardo Pompili Rossi,Stefano Spadoni,Francois Garcia
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director Oscar Beuselinck,Gilles Cannatella,Filippo Fassetta,Bruce Franklin,Antti J. Jokinen,Luca Lachin,Catherine Olaya Salazar,Noureddine Aberdine,Emma Horton,Giampiero Pelusi
Art Department Roberta Amodio,Carlo Avvisato,Antonio Beccarisi,Giuseppe Cafagna,Rosario Calascibetta,Cristina Cecili,Gabrizio Corbucci,Tommaso Dubla,Francesco Fonda,Samuele Giardina,Trevor Goring,Dominic Hyman,Mauro Lucantoni,Alessia Maggio,Mauro Mieli,Lorenzo Monaca,Francesco Motolese,Bernadino Nardoni,Redouane Nasserdine,David Packard,Francesco Postiglione,Gabriele Ridolfi,Gianpaolo Rifino,Federica Russo,Marcello Troiani,Francesco Valento,Federico Vianelli,Greg Winter,Roberto Benetti,Alice Biddle,Ted Boonthanakit,Martin Foley,Thomas Jones,Antonio Murer,Mark Reynolds,Armando Savoia,Fernando Valento,Ashley Winter
Sound Department Ulrika Akander,Bob Beher,Tom Bellfort,Alessandro Cattanio,Harry Cohen,Alessio Costantino,Kate Dain,Tim Farrell,Frank Fleming,Paul Flinchbaugh,Nick Foley,Nerses Gezalyan,Catherine Harper,Allen Hartz,Chris Jenkins,Kenneth L. Johnson,Michael Kamper,Larry Kemp,Greg LaPlante,Taoufik Mekraz,Jon Mete,Frank A. Montaño,Michael C. Moore,Christopher Moriana,James Moriana,Bryan Pennington,Luigi Pini,Ann Scibelli,Branden Spencer,Wylie Stateman,Ted Swanscott,Bruce Tanis,Derek Vanderhorst,Tim Webb,Jeffrey Wilhoit,Kerry Dean Williams,Susan Cahill,Harry Cohen,Paul Longstaffe,Chris Navarro,Eric Thompson,Hugh Waddell,Nourdine Zaoui
Special Effects by Bryan Blair,Danilo Bollettini,Massimo Cardajoli,Maurizio Corridori,Stefano Corridori,Jeff L. Deist,Robert Freitas,Moto Hata,Mark Maitre,Stephen Norrington,Hanin Ouidder,Miles Teves,Kevin Carter
Visual Effects by Laurent M. Abecassis,Syed Ali Ahsan,Douglas Aiken,Ian Allard,Joe Alter,Alp Altiner,Robert Alves,Steve Ansell,Mathieu Archambault,Shaikh Ata-ur-Rehman,Mauro Baldissera,Michael Baltazar,Laurie Baranyay,Stephane Bal Barbin,Ron Barr,David Beedon,Mathieu Blouin,Genevieve Boisvert,Reine Bourgault,Frederic Breault,Arnaud Brisebois,Edo Brizio,Philippe Brochu,Dany Brouillette,Shannan Burkley,Jeremy Burns,D. Walt Cameron,Massimo Cipollina,Adriano Cirulli,Eric Clement,Daniel Coupal,Jason Crosby,Steve Cummings,Frank D Iorio,Clay Dale,August Alondra Davies,Primo De Santis,Chris Del Conte,Marc Desmarais,Ivan DeWolf,Thai Son Doan,Sebastien Dostie,Maxime Ducharme,Jason Edwardh,Christopher English,Richard Flores,Marco Foglia,Michel Frenette,Spence Fuller,Benoit Girard,Ari Golan,Charles Granger,Marc Hall,Laura Hanigan,Mike Hardison,Jamie Helman,Alex Hernandez,Daniel Hernandez,Jason Hill,Steve Hodge,Chris Holmes,Meredith Hook,Chris Hummel,Richard Hurrey,Michel Héroux,Joni Jacobson,Lucas Janin,Brian Jennings,Bonnie Kanner,Zeeshan Karimi,Taryn P. Kelly,Richard Kidd,Jeffrey Kleiser,Brian Knudson,Rob Konuch,Jason Kreller,Geneviève Labelle,Emanuel LaFrance,Yann Laliberte,Nicolas Lamy,Christopher Lance,Cam Langs,Martin Larrivée,Claude Lauzon,Christine Leclerc,Tom Leeser,Jacques Levesque,Kenneth Littleton,Lawrence Littleton,Mauro Maccari,George Macri,Tom Mahoney,Jacques Marchand,Simon Marinof,Jeffrey Martin,Omar McClendon,John R. McConnell,John McCunn,Dennis McHugh,Ray McIntyre Jr.,Jason Meier,James Minett,Kama Moiha,Jerome Morin,Jean-Francois Morissette,Juliette Mourez,Brad Moylan,Paul Nightingale,Tom Nixon,Stéphane Paradis,Andrew A. Paules,Erik Paynter,Michael Pecchia,Bob Peishel,Todd Sheridan Perry,Cristin Pescosolido,Travis Pinsonnault,Emma Pittson,Antonin Plante,Ali Imran Qadir,Zakir Ali Qureshi,Yves Rainville,Alfredo Ramirez,Jesse Rapczak,Kashif Raza,Rob Reinhart,David Ridlen,Philippe Roberge,Andrew Romine,Amanda Roth,Pascal Ruest,Jeff Sargent,Mark Schane-Lydon,Kevin Schwab,Nicola Sganga,Doug Smith,Laurent Solignac,Tim Stevenson,Kevin Struckman,Tracy Takahashi,Wilson Tang,Mandy Tankenson,Patrick Tasse,Ferdinand N. Terado,Sylvain Thibodeau,John Tissavary,Chuck Toussieng,Jeff Varga,Norie Varga,Juan Carlos Vargas,Ariel Velasco-Shaw,Leandro Visconti,Diana Walczak,Eric Wilson,Brian Wolf,Dan Wrightsell,Saqlain Zaidi,Paolo Zeccara,Sylvain Allard,Steeve Boulianne,Laurent Charbonnel,Etienne Daigle,Dana Darie,Charles Desilets,Maxime Ducharme,Christian Emond,Eve-Marie Gingras,Patrick Gray,Chloe Grysole,Matthew Herzog,Elizabeth Maxwell Keith,Alain Lachance,Nancy Larouche,Joey Lessard,Jami Levesque,Dave Massicotte,Thai-My Nguyen,Maxim Olivier-Adlhoch,Marc-Antoine Paquin,Yann Provencher,Martin Pélissier,Guillaume Rodrigue,Gabriel Rouette,Tracey Saburretei,Nathalie Tremblay,Radu Vintila
Stunts Mohamed Ali,David Ambrosi,Giorgio Antonini,Mauro Balmas,Massimiliano Bianchi,Alessandro Borgese,Katia Crispino,Bruno Di Luia,Akouala Cristel Julien,Alessandro Novelli,Mario Novelli,Valentina Paradiso,Wilson Peres,Tatiana Romanova,Enrico Salamon,Paolo Susani,Diego Tomassini,Paolo Antonini,Massimiliano Bianchi,Massimiliano Catasta,Massimiliano Ubaldi
Camera and Electrical Department Emiliano Alleva,Sergio Ambrosi,Fabrizio Amendola,Giampaolo Bagala,Massimo Barbona,Roberto Barbona,Alfredo Betrò,Chiara Bettinelli,Abderrahim Bissar,Piero Bosi,Daniele Cafolla,Filippo Cafolla,David Campbell,Alessandro Cardelli,Marco Carosi,Alessandro Chiodo,Maurizio Cremisini,Joe D Alessandro,Luca De Santis,Massimiliano Dessena,Umberto Dessena,Massimo di Domenico,Walter Di Masi,Piernicola Di Muro,Fabrizio Diamanti,Mauro Diamanti,Roberto Diamanti,Fabio Fumelli,Giovanni Gabriele,Giovanni Gebbia,Roberto Gentili,Alessio Lampazzi,Guido Leonarduzzi,Stefano Lombardo,Duccio Maccari,Alessandro Martella,Marco Martelli,Willy Murgolo,Alessandro Rossi,Marco Rossi,Maurizio Salvatori,Nazzareno Savini,Enrico Stella,Marco Sticchi,Sergio Strizzi,Paolo Tiberti,Vincenzo Vedovato,Franco Biciocchi,Massimo Rinella,Massimiliano Trevis
Animation Department Steeve Boulianne,Mathieu Dimuro,Marco Foglia,Jason Meier,Kim Richardson
Casting Department Paolo Dragone,Buffy Hall,Felice Lattes,Karen Lindsay-Stewart,Tate Palmer,Vicky Wildman
Costume and Wardrobe Department Tim Aslam,Alma Barbieri,Mauro Berti,Piera Cimino,Giovanni Lipari,Valentia Pintus,Giovanni Scotti,Marco Scotti,Gemma Spina,Vittorio Torrieri,Abdelkrim Akallach,Lois DeArmond,Annalisa Schmid,Cristina Tucci
Editorial Department Steve Ansell,Ron Barr,Jennifer Bunting,Aaron Denenberg,Tony Dustin,Johanna Gavard,Dale E. Grahn,Leslie D. Guettler,Mo Henry,Stephanie Ito,Trent Johnson,Emanuela Lucidi,Mark Sahagun,Glen Scantlebury,Yvonne Valdez,Monica Anderson,Herbert Dwight Raymond IV
Location Management Khalid Banoujaafar,Mauro Stefanucci
Music Department Herbert Beckir,Mark Berger,Tom Hardisty,Steve Kempster,Paul Linford,Louis Molino,Jennifer Nash,Trevor Rabin,Shie Rozow,Jeanette Surga,Indiana Woodward,Lizzy X.,Kory Kruckenberg,Paul Linford,Joe Lisanti,Danita Ng-Poss,Jason Poss,David Sabee,Aaron Symonds
Script and Continuity Department Portia Tickell,Kathryn Waters,Mimosa Nistri Ranalletti
Transportation Department Carlo Di Bianca,Carlo Lamoratta,Mario Lamoratta,Roberto Ruggieri,Mauro Stefanucci,Emiliano Verni,Dave Williams,Aldo Zangrilli,El Mahjoub Najma
Additional Crew Monica Anderson,Tommaso Arrighi,Davide Bartolini,Luca Benetti,Norma Jane Burke,Paul Cadiou,Gerardo Carbilla,Lorenzo Carrera,Giampiero Cirotto,Maurizio Cusano,Alberto De Stefani,Enfys Dickinson,Sebastion Dzininski,Barbara Ferrara,Andy Fraser,Ira Goldklang,Mustapha Grumij,Faical Hajji,Geoffrey Kahn,Cristina Leurini,Victor Lledo,Omar Lopez,Pasquale Martino,Monica Mele,Giusy Mercuri,Mario Mercuri,Israel Oyelumade,Andrea Pagani,Giampiero Pelusi,Piernicola Pinnola,Allison Rintala,Jennifer Rivieccio,Stefanie Schenk,Giovanni Scifo,Valeriya Shevechenko,Diana Spadaccini,Leslie Stevens,Brice Tidwell,Elisabetta Tomasso,Giulio Villa,Daniel Virgulto,Eric Washington,Mohamed Essaghir Aabach,Alma Barbieri,Katharine Chadwick,Piera Cimino,Nick Komornicki,Paul J. Memmi,Mike Mohr,Frédéric North,Peggy Pere,Eugene Rizzo,Gregory J. Rossi,Nikki Stanghetti,Vittorio Torrieri
Thanks Archie Buffkins,Barnaby Paul Cadiou,David Kam Coyner,John Frankenheimer,Michael Kamen
Genres Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Companies Morgan Creek Entertainment, Dominion Productions, Post Amazers
Countries USA
Languages English
ContentRating R
ImDbRating 5.1
ImDbRatingVotes 37028
MetacriticRating 30
Keywords lucifer morningstar character,supernatural horror,psychotronic film,cgi animal in live action title,pickaxe