When the dust settled on Exorcist: The Beginning, and both Morgan Creek and the film world knew the ‘problems’ it had probably weren’t problems at all, we all wondered what Schrader’s version of the film would be like. Morgan Creek were smart enough to give it a limited release and put it on DVD quick. So now, we can enjoy what is a worthy prequel to The Exorcist– even despite its flaws.
Few would argue the significance of Exorcist: The Beginning on cinematic history. This is the first time a studio has financed a film and then fired the director¦and then hired a new screenwriter and a new director to remake the movie, retaining the same basic plot, sets, cinematographer and leading actor. Essentially, you end up with two versions of the same thing, and for students of film, it provides a unique look at how two completely different film makers approach the same material.
In this case, the film makers in question couldn’t be more different. On the one hand, you have Paul Schrader (the writer of what are arguably Scorsese’s best works), and on the other, you have Renny Harlin, who is best known for making movies that nobody wants to watch. In an unprecedented move, Morgan Creek pulled the plug on Schrader’s Exorcist: The Beginning after viewing a cut they deemed ponderous and badly photographed, bringing on Harlin to craft a new version that would be more accessible to the skateboard crowd. Schrader’s film was denounced by the studio, and most viciously by writer Caleb Carr, who attacked not only the filmic representation of his work, but also Schrader himself.
I’ve already spoken my peace on Harlin’s Exorcist: The Beginning (feel the hate here), so it’s a dead horse I no longer have any interest in beating. If I mention again, it’s only as a point of inevitable comparison. Instead, I’m going to discuss the newly re-titled Paul Schrader’s Exorcist: The Original Prequel, a film that everyone has been dying to see but no one has.
Ladies and gentlemen: I’ve seen it.
This is the first review of the film. It’s never been screened, remaining a mystery that grows with the passing of time. As a result, I feel a certain amount of pressure in writing this. While it’s certainly exciting to know that your impressions will set the tone for the buzz that will follow, it’s also an incredibly intimidating feeling. Schrader’s film has been considered a Holy Grail to Exorcist fans (to say nothing of those who follow Hollywood Car Accidents like this one), and it’s a movie that most people have feared they might never have the chance to see. I’m one of the first outside Morgan Creek to do so, and so I’m well aware of the weight my words will carry.
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