A fourth Exorcist film is certainly needless, but circumstances make the project fascinating. Exorcist: The Beginning (R) is the first film in memory that was completed (at a reported cost of $40-million), then junked by studio executives.
Warner Bros. reportedly didn't like director Paul Schrader's version, so it hired Renny Harlin to start over from scratch. Schrader (Affliction, Auto Focus) reportedly dodged the gore factor the studio was counting on to sell tickets, opting for psychological terror that's a tougher sell to audiences.
Out with Schrader and in with Harlin, still smarting from that Cutthroat Island debacle in 1995, plusMindhunters, a movie planned for spring 2004 release, now jettisoned to 2005. Not exactly the kind of pro you want coming off the bench in a tough spot. Harlin reportedly turned on the blood spigots to satisfy the suits upstairs. What it means to audiences isn't known, since the studio prevented any screenings for critics until just before opening day.
What we know is that Stellan Skarsgard (Dogville, King Arthur), above, plays the young Catholic priest Father Merrin, who grew up to be Max von Sydow in William Friedkin's classic 1973 film. That's odd, since Skarsgard is nearly a decade older now than von Sydow was while filming the original. Anyway, Merrin takes a sabbatical after World War II and visits Africa, where the tomb of the evil spirit Pazuzu has been unearthed. Expect more flying furniture, anatomically impossible physical reactions, blasphemous taunting, maybe even some green pea soup.