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Exorcist: The Beginning
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that from the opening scene of bloody bodies stabbed and crucified across Kenyan soil, viewers are in for a brutal blood bath. Know that there is very graphic violence including a child being mauled by hyenas, a dead baby covered in maggots and someone slitting his throat.
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What's the story?
In this prequel to the classic The Exorcist, it's just after World War II, and Devil-fighter Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) has left the priesthood a broken man. Because of his archeological expertise -- and lack of moral center -- he is approached to steal a Devilish-artifact from a dig in Africa, where a church is being excavated. When he arrives, the trouble has already begun: local workers have disappeared, the lead archeologist has gone insane, and hyenas stalk the site even in the daytime. The horror only accelerates, especially for the Africans: A child is mauled to death by the hyenas, a baby is born dead and covered with maggots, and, at the insane asylum, the former boss slowly -- and graphically -- slits his own throat. Merrin has his own demons: he'd been forced to make an impossible choice at the hands of the Nazis. Meanwhile, tensions mount between the native people and the bullying British army. And a young child is blamed for the trouble -- but is he really the one possessed? Our hero will ultimately have to decide that the Devil is really at work -- and figure out where he's at work -- before he takes back the cloth in order to fight him.
Is it any good?
A contrived plot, lame CGI effects and needless, over-the-top gore make EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING an unbearable movie to watch. Flashbacks to Merrin's past are heavy-handed (for example, a slow-motion cut of a little girl dropping her toy puppy in the snow when she comes across a dead body) -- and using the horror of the Holocaust here seems offensive.
The final showdown has a nice head-turning homage to the famous first film (though the effects look fake), and there are some interesting plot points (a young priest tells Merrin that the Vatican suspects the dig site is where Lucifer fell to Earth after being thrown from Heaven). But ultimately viewers will be disappointed that any compelling details are buried by the film's focus on cheap jumps and blood baths.
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