Critics could smell the stench a mile off, but moviegoers took a little longer to figure out that Exorcist: The Beginning was a dud. Renny Harlin's hack sequel to the classic 70s shocker rocketed to No.1 in the States before dropping out of the Top Ten altogether after two weeks. Even a haunting performance by Stellan Skarsgård (as tormented priest Father Merrin) was not enough to save this film, which manages to "horrify for all the wrong reasons".
Given that it was so quickly rushed through production, it's not surprising that this film travels light on DVD. A behind-the-scenes featurette allows just enough time for a routine breakdown of the story, with observations by Skarsgård and co restricted to superficial statements beginning "My character is..." or "My character does..." There are only furtive hints of Harlin's slapdash working style, as when Izabella Scorupco reveals, "Whether we're going in the totally wrong direction, there is a beautiful, open atmosphere." Similarly, James D'Arcy lets slip, "I've never seen anybody throw the camera around so happily and without any worries of how to cut the scene together." Perhaps by way of excusing himself, Harlin explains that he directed the film on crutches after getting hit by a car in Rome. Perhaps the driver had seen CutThroat Island?
Harlin goes on to confess a few of the film's shortcomings in a breathlessly efficient commentary, although he doesn't get into the nitty-gritty of the project's troubled history. For instance there's no mention of writer/director Paul Schrader whose first cut of the movie was trashed by the suits at Morgan Creek for lacking enough scary moments. Of course Harlin's CG hyenas were only marginally more frightening than a Tom & Jerry cartoon and he knows it. "We resorted to CGI because hyenas are impossible to work with," he says, "but I regret that decision because the animals are not totally convincing."
To get anything out of this meagre extras package, you'll have to read between the lines. Even so, this DVD will do nothing to restore your faith in Hollywood horror.