REVIEW: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END

CAST

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Orlando Bloom (Lord of The Rings)
Keira Knightley (Atonement)
Jack Davenport (Flash Forward)
Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans)
Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Mackenzie Crook (Solomon Kane)
Kevin McNally (Valkyrie)
Stellan Skarsgard (Avengvers Assemble)
Tom Hollander (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation)
Martin Klebba (The Cape)
Naomie Harris (Skyfall)
Chow Yun fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden tiger)
Keith Richards (The Simpsons)
Marshall Manesh (How I Met Your Mother)

To control the oceans, Lord Cutler Beckett executes anyone associated with piracy by ordering Davy Jones to destroy all pirate ships in the seas. Condemned prisoners sing “Hoist the Colours” to compel the nine Pirate Lords to convene at Shipwreck Cove to hold the Brethren Court. Captain Jack Sparrow, one of the Pirate Lords, never named a successor. Captain Barbossa, along with Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, Tia Dalma, and the crew of the Black Pearl, plot to rescue Jack from Davy Jones’s Locker. Travelling to Singapore, the crew meet Captain Sao Feng who owns navigational charts to the Locker. Beckett’s soldiers invade, but the crew escape. Feng and Turner make a deal to give Jack to Feng, so he in turn can use the Pearl to rescue his father Bootstrap Bill from the Flying Dutchman. The crew travels to the locker and rescues the marooned Jack. They find themselves trapped, encountering dead souls, including Elizabeth’s father Governor Swann. They learn the Dutchman must have a captain. Returning to the living world, the Pearl is attacked by Sao Feng and Beckett’s men. Through a complex series of deals, Elizabeth is handed over to Feng under the belief she is the goddess Calypso, while the rest of the crew make for Shipwreck Cove aboard the Pearl, though Jack later throws Will off the ship as part of the plan to seize control of the Dutchman. Sao Feng tells Elizabeth that the Brethren Court bound Calypso in human form after she betrayed her lover, Davy Jones. He plans to release her to defeat Beckett. Davy Jones attacks Feng’s ship, but Feng appoints Elizabeth his successor as Pirate Lord before dying. Admiral Norrington frees Elizabeth and her new crew from the Dutchman, but is killed by a crazed Bootstrap Bill.

The Black Pearl arrives at Shipwreck Cove where Barbossa attempts to persuade the Brethren Court to release Calypso. Jack’s father Captain Teague and Keeper of the Pirate Code, informs the Court that only an elected Pirate King can decide. A vote is taken. To avoid a stalemate, Jack casts his vote for Elizabeth, making her King. Davy Jones visits Tia Dalma in the Pearl’s brig, revealing she is Calypso, and they promise to be together again.

The Brethren Court and Beckett’s fleets emerge for war. On a sandbank, Elizabeth, Jack, Barbossa, Beckett, Jones, and Will parley, trading Will for Jack, and Barbossa steals Jack’s piece of eight, all of which are owned by the Pirate Lords and required to free Calypso. Barbossa frees Calypso, but when Will reveals it was Jones who imprisoned her, Calypso vanishes and summons an enormous maelstrom.

The Pearl and the Dutchman battle in the maelstrom. Elizabeth and Will are wed by Barbossa before swinging over to the Dutchman to aid Jack. On board the Dutchman, Jones and Jack engage in a duel, with Jones gaining the upper hand. Jones stabs Will with a sword, but Jack and Elizabeth have Will stab Jones’ heart. Jones dies, and falls in the maelstrom, free for all eternity. Will succumbs to his injuries. Jack and Elizabeth escape the Dutchman as it is sucked into the maelstrom. As Beckett’s ship, the Endeavour, approaches to destroy the Pearl, the Dutchman rises, now captained by Will, and the crew free of Jones’ curse. Together, the two pirate ships destroy the Endeavour, with a stunned Beckett going down with the ship while his army retreats. With Will now bound to escort souls lost at sea to the next world for ten years, Will and Elizabeth consummate their marriage before he departs on the Dutchman.

Jack and Joshamee Gibbs discover Barbossa has stolen the Black Pearl again, but Jack planned ahead and cut out Sao Feng’s navigational charts, departing from Tortuga alone to track down the mythical Fountain of Youth to become immortal. Ten years later, Elizabeth and her son watch from a sea cliff as Will returns aboard the Dutchman.

At World’s End is a great film, making superb use of its immense budget and wowing audiences with incredible set-pieces and climactic action.  At World’s End is a solidly entertaining film, held up by brilliant action

 

 

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REVIEW: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST

CAST

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Orlando Bloom (Lord of The Rings)
Keira Knightley (Atonement)
Jack Davenport (Flash Forward)
Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans)
Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Mackenzie Crook (Solomon Kane)
Kevin McNally (Valkyrie)
Stellan Skarsgard (Avengvers Assemble)
Tom Hollander (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation)
Martin Klebba (The Cape)
Naomie Harris (Skyfall)
Derrick O’Connor (Alias)
Reggie Lee (The Dark Knight Rises)

The wedding of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann is interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company, who has arrest warrants for the couple as well as for Commodore James Norrington, for allowing Captain Jack Sparrow to escape execution. Norrington’s whereabouts are uncertain, as he resigned after his obsessive pursuit of Sparrow resulted in the Navy’s flagship, HMS Dauntless, being destroyed in a typhoon. Elizabeth is imprisoned, but Beckett promises to free her if Will tracks down Jack and brings Beckett Jack’s magic compass which points to whatever the holder wants most. Shortly after, Governor Swann tries to escape Port Royal with Elizabeth but is captured. Elizabeth negotiates with Beckett to let her escape to find the compass herself, and she hides aboard a Scottish merchant vessel, the Edinburgh Trader.
On the Black Pearl, Jack reunites with Will’s father Bootstrap Bill, who reveals he is a crewman on the Flying Dutchman, captained by Davy Jones, whom Jack previously made a deal with to raise the Pearl from the depths. Jack must join Jones’ crew or be dragged to Davy Jones’ Locker by the monstrous Kraken. Will eventually finds Jack’s crew on an island ruled by cannibals, from which they escape. The crew meet voodoo priestess Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), who tells them Jones’ weakness is his heart, locked within the Dead Man’s Chest. Locating the Dutchman, Will is shanghaied into service while Jones sends Jack to bring him one-hundred souls so his blood debt can be paid. On the Dutchman, Will meets his father, and learns that the chest’s key is in Jones’ possession. After playing a game of liar’s dice against Davy Jones, Bootstrap helps Will escape with the key, but Jones sends the Kraken after him, sinking the Edinburgh Trader.
In Tortuga, Jack hires a new crew, including Elizabeth, and Norrington, now a drunk. All parties arrive on Isla Cruces where the chest is buried but a three-way sword fight breaks out between Jack, Will, and Norrington who all want the heart for their respective goals: Jack wants to call off the Kraken, Will wants to rescue his father, and Norrington wants to regain his life. In the chaos, Jack obtains Jones’ heart and hides it in a jar of dirt, but Norrington secretly steals the heart and runs off pretending to lure away the Dutchman’s crew. Jones attacks the Pearl with the Kraken, which devours most of the crew and destroys all but one of the Pearl’s lifeboats, but Jack, who briefly fled, returns and wounds it with a net full of explosives.

Jack orders the survivors to abandon ship, but Elizabeth manacles him to the mast so that the crew can escape the Kraken. Jack manages to break free, but is dragged down to the bottom of the sea by the Kraken. Jones discovers his heart is missing and rages. In Port Royal, Norrington approaches Beckett and gives him the heart and Letters of Marque meant for Jack, allowing him back into the navy as well as allowing Beckett to gain control of Davy Jones and the seas. The Pearl’s crew take shelter with Tia Dalma, where they all agree to rescue Jack. Tia Dalma introduces the captain that will guide them: the resurrected Captain Barbossa.Yes it is darker, much darker than the original. But I think the darkness only adds to the film. It makes the film more credible, rather than a children’s story.

REVIEW: ARN: KNIGHT TEMPLAR

CAST

Joakim Nätterqvist (The Bomber))
Sofia Helin (Nina Frisk)
Stellan Skarsgård (The Avengers)
Vincent Perez (Puppylove)
Simon Callow (The Phantom of The Opera)
Steven Waddington (Tarzan and The Lost City)
Michael Nyqvist (The Girl With The DRagion Tattoo)

Arn Magnusson is a son of the powerful Folkung dynasty in the mid-12th century. He grows up in a monastery belonging to the Cistercians. He is trained in archery, swordsmanship and horsemanship by a former Knight Templar, the brother Guilbert, who resides in the monastery. Arn is also discovered to be ambidextrous. One day while wandering the woods he encounters three men trying to force a young girl into marriage. When the girl begs Arn for help two of the men attack Arn, who kills them in self-defense. Although the monks tell Arn he did nothing wrong, they question Guilbert training him into being a warrior. Guilbert replies that Arn is not meant to be a monk but is destined to be a soldier of God. When Arn leaves the monastery and returns to his family, he is soon pulled into the struggle between the powerful families, all fighting for the crown of Västra Götaland. He helps his friend Knut Eriksson to kill the old king Karl Sverkersson. This leads to war between the two factions; Arn and his fiancée Cecilia Algotsdotter are excommunicated for premarital relations (in reality a plot to hurt Knut) and are forced to undertake twenty years of penance, Cecilia in a convent and Arn as a Knight Templar in the Holy Land to fight against the Saracens.While pursuing a band of thieves, Arn comes across the very enemy of all Christendom, Saladin, and saves his life. Saladin thanks Arn by warning him away from Jerusalem, because he is leading a vast army towards the city. As Saladin marches upon Jerusalem, Arn is given the order to intercept the Saracens before they reach the city, and they successfully ambush Saladin’s army in a mountain pass (the ambush taking the place of the historical Battle of Montgisard figuring in the novel). The movie ends with Arn gaining a letter discharging him from his service in the Holy Land from the Templar Grandmaster Arnold of Torroja, and Cecilia giving praise to God on hearing news of Arn’s survival.Overall, one of the better films about the crusades and the choices made for people living in a time when individual freedom was lost and subjugated to church and kings.

REVIEW: ROMEO & JULIET (2013)

CAST

Douglas Booth (Noah)
Hailee Steinfeld (Ender’s Game)
Damian Lewis (Your Higness)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Ed Westwick (S. Darko)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Lesley Manville (Maleficent)
Christian Cooke (Cemetery Junction)
Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Natascha McElhone (Solaris)
Tom Wisdom (300)
Tomas Arana (Gladiator)

During the late Middle Ages in Verona, two wealthy families, the Montagues and Capulets, have been feuding for centuries. One day at the market place, the feuding families start a brawl which infuriates the Prince and he threatens that if the peace of Verona is disturbed again, he shall take their lives. Meanwhile, Romeo, a young Montague, reveals that he is in love with Lord Capulet’s niece, Rosaline. Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio persuades him to forget Rosaline but Romeo rebuffs him.
Later that night, there is a party held by Lord Capulet. Romeo sneaks in with Benvolio and Mercutio hoping to meet Rosaline. Instead, Romeo sees Juliet who is Lord Capulet’s daughter and falls in love with her. Juliet feels the same and they share a dance. They go together to a quiet place and share a passionate kiss. Juliet’s Nurse interrupts and when Romeo talks to the nurse, he discovers that Juliet is a Capulet.
After the party ends, Romeo sneaks into Juliet’s garden secretly where he witnesses Juliet expressing her love for Romeo. They have a romantic time and decide to get married the next day. Romeo seeks help from Friar Laurence to wed them and the Friar agrees thinking that their love may end the violent war between Capulets and Montagues. They perform the ceremony and afterwards Juliet returns home. Romeo catches up with Mercutio and Benvolio but they meet Tybalt and his men on the way. This starts another violent brawl during which Tybalt stabs Mercutio. Romeo is enraged and runs after Tybalt seeking revenge. They fight and Romeo slays Tybalt. As the result of this loss, the Prince banishes Romeo from Verona.
Meanwhile both families are filled with grief over their losses, especially Juliet. The Friar sends Romeo to Juliet so he can spend one last night with her. Romeo goes to Juliet and they consummate their marriage. Romeo leaves in haste the next morning. But Juliet is shocked when her father brings news of planning to wed Juliet with Count Paris. Juliet is resistant but her father threatens to disown her if she does not wed Paris. Juliet goes to Friar Laurence for help, threatening to take her life if the Friar does not have a solution. The Friar in return, gives her a potion that will put her in a deathlike sleep temporarily while he will inform Romeo about this and they shall run away together. Juliet is overjoyed and drinks the potion that night. Her parents are devastated and instead of her marriage, her funeral is planned. During the funeral, Benvolio sees Juliet and thinks she is dead and immediately runs off to tell Romeo.

Friar’s letter however, does not reach Romeo and Benvolio tells Romeo that Juliet is dead. Romeo is shocked and devastated and plans to take his life. He buys poison and goes to Juliet. He kisses Juliet one last time, then he drinks the potion unaware that Juliet has awakened. Juliet is overjoyed to see him and they kiss but Romeo suddenly collapses and she finds out that he took poison and Romeo dies in her arms. The Friar arrives but he is too late. He hears some guards coming and goes to hold them off. While Juliet is filled with grief, she finds and stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger. The Friar arrives and finds them both dead. Their funeral is held together and the feud between Capulets and Montagues finally reconcile, ending their feud.No film production of this play will please everyone, alas I enjoyed it. It was those little details that were added that made me enjoy this adaptation. A decent enough adaptation of a classic story.

REVIEW: DEEP BLUE SEA

CAST

Thomas Jane (The Punisher)
Michael Rapaport (The Sixth Sense)
Stellan Skarsgård (thor)
LL Cool J (S.W.A.T.)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan)
Saffron Burrows (Troy)
Jacqueline McKenzie (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Aida Turturro (Junior)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Ronny Cox (Robocop)

At Aquatica, a remote former submarine refueling facility converted into a laboratory, a team of scientists searches for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Fluids from the brain tissue of three Mako sharks are harvested. Unknown to the other scientists, Drs. Susan McAlester and Jim Whitlock have violated the code of ethics and have genetically engineered the sharks to increase their brain size; this has the side effect of making the sharks smarter and more dangerous.
After one of the sharks escapes and attacks a boat full of teenagers, Aquatica’s financial backers send corporate executive Russell Franklin to investigate the facility. To prove that the research is working, the team removes fluid from the brain tissue of the largest shark. While examining it, Jim is attacked by the shark and his arm is bitten off. Brenda Kerns, the tower’s operator, calls a helicopter to evacuate Jim, but as he is being lifted the cable jams and Jim falls into the shark pen. The shark grabs the gurney and pulls the chopper into the tower, killing Brenda and the pilots. As the others try to figure out what made the explosion, one of the sharks uses Jim’s body as a battering ram to smash an underwater window, flooding the facility and freeing the other sharks. Susan confesses to the others that she and Jim genetically altered the sharks.
Susan, Russell, wrangler Carter Blake, marine biologist Janice Higgins, and engineer Tom Scoggins make their way to the top of the center. While delivering a dramatic speech emphasizing the need for group unity, Russell is dragged into the water by the largest shark and killed. While climbing up the industrial elevator, a ladder falls and gets wedged between the walls of the shaft, leaving them dangling over the water and the second shark. Janice loses her grip and falls; despite Carter’s attempts to save her, the shark kills her. The cook, Sherman “Preacher” Dudley, is attacked by the first shark, but kills it by throwing a lighter into the kitchen’s oven that had been turned on. He then encounters Carter, Tom and Susan.
Traumatized by Janice and Russell’s deaths, Tom goes with Carter to the flooded lab to activate controls to open a door to the surface. The largest shark attacks them, killing Tom. Meanwhile, Susan heads into her room to collect her research material, but while there, she is ambushed by the second shark. She narrowly escapes by climbing onto a table and disconnects a nearby power cable, taking off her clothes, and electrocuting the shark in her underwear, destroying her research in the process. Carter, Susan and Preacher go to the top of the research center through a decompression chamber and swim to the surface. Preacher is caught by the third shark and dragged through the water, but swims to safety after stabbing the shark in the eye with his crucifix, causing it to release him.
Carter realizes that the third shark is trying to escape to the open sea, and that the sharks made them flood the facility so they could escape through the weaker mesh fences at the surface. In an effort to distract the final shark, Susan cuts herself and dives into the water. When she attempts to climb out, the ladder breaks and she is killed by the shark. Carter dives in to try to save her but is too late. Grabbing hold of the shark’s fin, he is pulled through the water. Preacher grabs hold of the harpoon and shoots the shark through its dorsal fin, but the spear also goes through Carter’s thigh. As the shark breaks through the fence, Carter is attached to the shark by the harpoon. He tells Preacher to connect the trailing wire to a car battery, sending an electric current through the wire and to an explosive charge in the harpoon, killing the shark. Carter managed to free himself in time, and he swims to the wreckage of the facility, joining Preacher in time to see the workers’ boat en-route on the horizon.If you know going into this movie that it is about a bunch of super intelligent mako sharks eating a bunch of human beings, then you can dismiss all of the scientific explanations and exposition as just prologue. You do not have to understand it and you can probably get away with even paying attention to it, because once the shark attacks begin that is all that is going to matter with this film. This is not the thinking person’s shark attack film.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: DOMINION – PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST

CAST

Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Clara Bellar (American Dreams)
Billy Crawford (A Second Chance)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Julian Wadham (The English Patient)

In order to understand just what exactly this movie is, a little back story is probably necessary. A few years ago, director Paul Schrader (director of Hardcore and writer of Taxi Driver) was brought on board at Warner Brothers to helm what was to be the fourth film in the Exorcist franchise. The film was to be a prequel and it would tell the story of what happened to Father Merrin when he was in Africa and fill us in on the events that are hinted at in William Friedkin’s original film.

Schrader went off and made his movie, but when the suits at Warner Brothers/Morgan Creek got their first chance to check it out, they were not at all impressed with the direction that Schrader had taken the story. His was a very dark and very thought provoking film and it would seem that the studio wanted a more commercially viable option, one that was, for lack of a nastier term, dumbed down a bit for broader mass appeal with more blood and gore to satiate what the studio likely considered the typical horror movie crowd. To get what they wanted out of their investment, Warner Brothers hired Finnish action movie director Renny Harlin (of Deep Blue Sea and Cutthroat Island), to shoot some new material, re-cut the movie, and basically, in this reviewers opinion, turn it into a dumb action horror movie. The reception, both at the box office and in terms of critical acclaim, to Harlin’s film was unimpressive and seeing as they already had a finished film from Schrader, Warner Brothers opted to give Schrader’s film a chance on DVD.

The film begins when a younger Father Lankaster Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) is in his native Holland, currently under Nazi occupation. A Nazi soldier has been found dead and now the commanding officer has got the townspeople lined up to answer for it. He asks Merrin to save the majority of them by pointing out to him the murderer – after all, he should know as he takes confession from everyone in town. Merrin refuses, and instead of killing the one man responsible for it, the Nazis shoot a woman in cold blood, forcing Merrin to pick nine more people from the population of the town to die. Skip ahead a few years and Merrin finds himself assigned to an archeological dig in South Africa. The events that took place in Holland have shaken his faith pretty hard, and he’s not the optimistic young man of God that he used to be. The Church teams him up with a young priest named Father Francis (Gabriel Mann) where they work with the natives out of a local mission. The dig unveils a gorgeous old building that looks like an antiquated Catholic Church, but once Merrin and Francis explore a little more, the find that there’s a chamber underneath that was once used as a sacrificial ceremonial chamber to an evil deity of ancient lore.

While the priests are trying to figure out what to make out of the discovery, tensions are growing between the occupying British army forces and the natives. While some natives have converted to Christianity, many of them resent having a religion different then their own presented to them and because of this, the two opposing parties don’t always get along. When two would be bandits in the employ of the Queen wind up dead inside the uncovered church, the army is hell-bent on punishing the natives who did it despite the fact that Merrin insists that given the nature of the Christian symbolism behind the killings, it wasn’t one of them. To complicate matters, a young man who was unfortunately born a crippled named Cheche (Billy Crawford) has been taken into the mission hospital to recover from a beating. His recovery is speedy and Francis believes it to be a miracle, evidence of God’s hand working in Africa. Merrin isn’t so sure, and neither is Rachel (Clara Bellar), the Jewish doctor who works alongside the priests. Merrin will soon find out what it is exactly that’s causing the changes in Cheche, and when he does, what he learns will affect him for the rest of his life.

Dominion is a much smarter, tense film than Renny Harlin’s version. Harlin’s had it’s moments – there were some good jump scares, some genuine moments of tension, and considerably more traditional horror movie elements in there but it felt empty – Schrader’s film is anything but. It is definitely a slower film and it’s not as traditionally horrific as Harlin’s, but it is a much smarter story that gets into your head and sticks with you a bit as opposed to the disposable shocks of the alternate version. There are also some huge differences in terms of not only how the story plays out but also in terms of what characters are involved (there are some that are in Schrader’s version that aren’t in Harlin’s at all and vice versa) and to what extent their involvement affects the out come. The character development that happens in this film is stronger and more human, the opening scene with the Nazi executions plays out differently and because of that does a better job of explaining where Merrin is at once he gets to Africa, and the subplot with Father Francis is a nice contrast to Merrin’s story (and one that was more or less left out of Harlin’s film completely). The way that the story points involving Major Granville in this version also make a lot more sense and are handled with a much stronger sense of realism here than in the other movie.
Image result for dominion prequel to the exorcistThe biggest flaw in the film is in the special effects. There are some extremely noticeable moments where very poor CGI rendering takes you right out of the atmosphere that the film creates and most of the time, it could have been avoided. The more obvious instances involve a snake and some hyenas – why real animals weren’t used here is a mystery, because the fake ones look like just that – fake animals. Other than that, Schrader turns in a very mature and subtle supernatural movie that doesn’t really function on the same level as Harlin’s flashier go for the gore approach. Both movies work for different reasons, but this one will stick with you longer and make you think about the concepts of true good and evil and the concepts of faith and the existence of God – something Harlin’s film doesn’t even try to do.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING

CAST

Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Izabella Scorupco (Reign of Fire)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Julian Wadham (The English Patient)
Ben Cross (First Knight)
David Bradley (Game of Thrones)


The film opens with a bloodied and terrified priest slowly making his way across the bodies of thousands of dead soldiers. There are many crows and hyenas roving around the bodies. The priest reaches the dead body of another priest and tries take a small demon idol of the head of Pazuzu from his hand, but, suddenly, the dead priest briefly comes back to life and stops the living priest from taking it. The camera pulls back to reveal that the entire valley is littered with dead soldiers, many have been crucified upside down. The movie then cuts to Cairo, Egypt in 1949, where the young Father Lancaster Merrin (played by Skarsgård, who played the same part in Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) has taken a sabbatical from the Church and devoted himself to history and archaeology as he struggles with his shattered faith. He is haunted especially by an incident in a small village in the occupied Netherlands during World War II, where he served as parish priest: near the end of the war, a sadistic Nazi SS commander, in retaliation for the murder of a German trooper, forces Merrin to participate in arbitrary executions in order to save a full village from slaughter.
After World War II, Merrin is an archaeologist in Cairo, when he is approached by a collector of antiquities named Semelier who asks him to come to a British excavation in a valley called Derati the Turkana region of Kenya. This dig is excavating a Christian Byzantine church built circa 500 A.D. — long before Christianity had reached that region of Africa. Semelier asks Merrin to recover an ancient relic of a demon, thought to be in the church, before the British can find it. The relic is the small head of the Pazuzu idol. Merrin agrees and travels to the dig site. He is joined by Father Francis, a Vatican scholar who was on his way to do missionary work in East Africa but was diverted by the Vatican to ensure the church is not desecrated. Upon arriving at the site, Merrin meets Major Granville, the British military officer in charge of the dig. Merrin also meets the chief excavator, a brutish man names Jefferies with visible boils on his face.And he meets Sarah Novak, a doctor who spent time in a concentration camp during World War II and is haunted by what happened to her there. Merrin’s translator and guide is Chuma. In addition, Merrin learns that the diggers are disappearing or leaving in droves because the local tribemen fear the church is cursed. Merrin witnesses a digger inexplicably experience a seizure. Merrin visits the dig site. Only the dome is uncovered; the rest of the church is buried beneath the earth. Merrin discovers that the church is in perfect condition, as though it had been buried immediately after its construction were completed. Merrin, Francis, and Chuma enter the church through the dome. They find it is near-pristine condition, but there are two oddities.First, all of the statues of the angels holding weapons are pointing the spears downward, whereas it is conventional for statues of angels to either have no weapons or to point them triumphantly toward heaven. Merrin and Francis deduce the sculptors were trying to depict the angels restraining something that was beneath the church. The second disturbing discovery is that someone has vandalized the church by ripping the enormous crucifix from its place on the altar and suspending it with Christ on the cross in an upside-down position, which is considered a desecration.
Merrin is determined to learn more about the archeological dig and asks to consult with the lead archeologist, Monsieur Bession. Sarah tells Merrin that Bession went insane three weeks earlier and was transferred to a mental hospital in Nairobi. Merrin visits Bession’s tent at the dig site and sees dozens of drawings of the same thing, the demon artifact the collector had asked Merrin to find. Merrin then travels to Nairobi to visit Bession. But when he enters Bession’s room, he discovers Bession has carved a swastika on his chest and is speaking through demonic possession in the voice of the sadistic SS commander who tormented Merrin during the war. As Merrin registers these events, Bession slashes his own throat after saying he was “free.” Father Gionetti, warden of the asylum, speculates that Bession was not possessed but rather “touched” by a demon, which drove him mad and eventually to suicide. Merrin is very skeptical, but before he returns to the dig site, Father Gionetti gives him the volume of Roman rituals to use in exorcism, although Merrin claims he will never use them.
Upon returning to the village, strange events continue. A local boy is attacked and killed by hyenas that seem to continuously stalk the dig, night and day. His younger brother, Joseph, enters a fugue state after watching his brother ripped to pieces. The local chief’s wife gives birth to a stillborn baby who is covered in maggots. Around the same time Merrin discovers that there is a passageway that leads to a cave underneath the church. In the cave he finds an ancient pagan temple with the statue of the demon Pazuzu. He also finds evidence that this temple was used to conduct human sacrifices. Upon his return, he sees the local tribe cremate the stillborn baby. This makes Merrin suspicious because there are stories of an epidemic that wiped out an entire village in the valley 50 years earlier. He had been told that the dead were buried in a graveyard just outside of the valley. When he digs up one of the graves of the supposed victims of this plague, he discovers it is empty. Merrin confronts Father Francis about it and Francis reveals to him about the history of the Derati valley and the real reason he was sent there.He says that 1,500 years prior, a great army led by two priests came to the alley searching for the origin of evil. When they arrived in the valley the evil presence consumed them and they killed each other. When the lone surviving priest made it back, Emperor Justinian ordered a church be built over the site, specifically the pagan temple, and then buried to seal the evil force inside of it. Father Francis reveals to Merrin that the builders of the church never meant it to be recorded in Vatican documents, however, a vague reference to it was recorded and found in 1893. Four priests subsequently came to Derati and enlisted the local tribe to help them. All of the tribesmen and the priests disappeared. The Vatican then ordered that the false graveyard be built and stories of a plague spread around to keep people away from the valley. Then the British just so happened to stumble upon the site. Francis then reveals that the Vatican sent him to see if the legend was true. When Merrin asks what legend, Francis reveals that it is believed that the valley in Derati was the spot where Lucifer fell after the war in heaven.
At the end of the movie, the dig’s doctor, Sarah, turns out to be the possessed individual and has the demon exorcised from her in the tunnels below the church but dies. Dr. Merrin and Joseph emerge from the church, (once again buried in sand) and history has repeated itself. Everyone at the site was killed by an evil presence from the church, except for one priest. Now, only Father Merrin and the little boy are left as the British soldiers and the local tribes have annihilated each other. Merrin returns to Rome and meets with Semelier at a cafe, explaining he was unable to find the relic, Semelier replies, “But you found something….Didn’t you?”… As he leaves, Merrin is revealed to be wearing a collar and is now a priest again, having regained his faith in God, after defeating the demon with holy exorcism rituals.

It could be argued that Exorcist: The Beginning isn’t necessarily a “bad” film, but a disappointing one. But, that would be splitting hairs, as the film is simply boring and not entertaining. Stellan Skarsgard does an admirable job in the film and director Renny Harlin certainly knows where to point the camera, but they can’t save a film which was damned from the beginning.