Melissa Leach

Were it a stand-alone feature, Renny Harlin’s “Exorcist: the Beginning” would merely be a sub-par campy horror movie. However, in the shadow of it’s lineage, the film falls flat on its face – a poor homage to “The Exorcist.”

“EtB” focuses on Father Merrin of “The Exorcist” in his younger days. Details of an African exorcism alluded to in the original movie are portrayed here. Merrin uncovers a church with geographic ties to Lucifer, and his excavation releases a demon.

“EtB” introduces potentially interesting characters only to have them disappear until the end of the film. James D’Arcy plays the devout but secretive Father Francis. He should have provided an excellent contrast to Father Merrin (Stellen Skarsgard), but his character remains absent until his death.

SkarsgÃ¥rd’s portrayal of the fallen priest, Father Merrin, was more reminiscent of an aging Indiana Jones than the taciturn and resolute priest in “The Exorcist.”

“EtB” has some deliciously disturbing scenes. The image of hyenas ripping apart a young boy is disturbing and will cross the line for some people.

But the entire movie plays like a monster horror film, a far cry from the supernatural suspense thriller original.

Merrin’s journey to the church is clumsily provided by a stereotypical plot device – a middleman seeking a demon statue for a collector. As a tie-in to scenes described in “The Exorcist,” the premise is laughable.The ending is lackluster and leaves the viewer dissatisfied.

Save your money. Wait for video.