Exorcist: The Beginning

Rated 2.0 British Colonial Africa, 1949: Former priest Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) first encounters the demon who will be his nemesis down the line in 1973, when Merrin will be played by Max von Sydow and the demon will inhabit the body of little Linda Blair. This prequel has seemed almost as cursed as the luckless Merrin: Director Paul Schrader was fired when producers said his movie wasn’t bloody enough, only to be replaced by Renny Harlin, with the movie recast, rewritten and reshot. Harlin’s forte may be action, not psychological horror, but he didn’t make Schrader’s mistake. There’s enough blood, guts, maggots and rotting flesh dripping from grinning skulls to please the most jaded producer. But it’s all in vain: The story makes little sense, there’s no suspense, and even the “scares” misfire.