Cairo, Egypt, 1949. A young Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) has left the Church and become an archeologist, haunted by his failure to save a small Dutch village from Nazi slaughter. He is then approached by a mysterious collector who hires him to travel to Kenya and steal an ancient relic of a demon from a British excavation. However, once Merrin reaches his destination, strange events start happening...
This chapter of The Exorcist remains as one of the most bizarre productions in film history. Originally Paul Schrader was brought to direct a psychological horror movie in the vein of the original; he did his job and almost completed what was called Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. However, as the movie was being marketed, Morgan Creek Productions decided it was not scary enough to fit expectations, so they tossed the unfinished film to a vault and brought an entirely new director, Renny Harlin, to direct an entirely new movie. This was the final result, a retooling named Exorcist: The Beginning that only shared Skarsgard as the main role and the outlines of its plot. Only after the latter failed at critics and box office they allowed Schrader to finish and release his film, edging the previous in success and giving birth to the strange event of two films in one.
Exorcist: The Beginning
- Anyone Can Die: Only Merrin and Joseph survive the massacre between the locals and the British military.
- Actionized Sequel: Exorcist the Beginning is an actionized prequel to the 1973 horror classic, as well as an actionized remake/reshoot to Schrader's Dominion, since it has a noticably faster pace, as well as an elaborate battle scene with a huge body count.
- Ate His Gun: After Major Granville witnesses supernatural activity in his tent in the form of finding himself preparing a crow for his butterfly collection instead of a regular insect specimen, his collection coming to life and then having butterfly crawling out of his mouth, he puts his gun into his mouth and pulls the trigger.
- Creepy Child: Joseph, who seems to attract bad luck everywhere he is present. Subverted since the one actually possessed is Sarah, the doctor.
- Driven to Suicide: Bession slits his own throat after being driven mad by the demon.
- Flies = Evil: Flies are present in places with higher density of demonic activity.
- Mutual Kill: During the climax, Merrin's native guide manages to shoot an angry tribesman at exactly the same time the tribesman throws his spear.
- Sadistic Choice: Flashbacks show that Merrin lost his faith after he was forced by Nazis in WWII to pick ten people from a crowd to be shot, lest they all be killed.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: There's a lot of characters and many of them end up having very little or practically no effect on the main plot, but unlike the Dominion, practically all of them end up getting killed in the most gruesome ways possible.
- Slashed Throat: When Merrin goes to question Bession about the archeological site, he finds him bleeding from a chest wound. After a cryptic conversation, Bession then kills himself by slicing his throat open with a shard of glass.
- Stock Subtitle: The Beginning is a typical subtitle for a prequel.
- Wall Crawling: Possessed Sarah does this briefly after Merrin drives her away with his faith.
Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
- Death by Materialism: Two British soldiers attempt to loot the church, and pop up dead the next day.
- Driven to Suicide: Major Granville.
- Enlightened Antagonist: The imagery of Pazuzu's final form definitely intends to evoke this trope, along with some oriental overtones to give it exotic flavour. After taking over Cheche's body, the normally rageful demon takes ascetic, even Buddhic attributes, turning into a moderately creepy bald man dressed in a simple white loincloth and seated in a levitating meditation posture.
- The Grotesque: Cheche is creepily malformed.
- Levitating Lotus Position: Pazuzu's final form floats in sukhasana position while Merrin confronts him.
- Surprisingly Happy Ending: Compared to Harlin's version, most of the people live through the film.