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This sick little outing is a worthy successor to the original and not the mawkish flop of the 2nd sequel. "ETB" has some of the best elements of the 1st and 3rd films, the latter being George C. Scott's vehicle. Any "Exorcist" flick, as well as many recent supernatural outings, is usually what I call ATC, All Too Catholic. The imagery has all but reached the "oh brother" level; you can't help but roll your eyes over the stern trappings of Mary, bishops and SAY-tan.
That said, its not a bad horror film at all. Its VERY important that you take it as what it is, a prequel to the 1st. If you do, it will be a lot more entertaining, as a quasi-historical chapter. Since the 1st film came along, there has been such an explosion of CGI that this one almost, ALMOST looks too quaint and plagued by Been-There-itis. It has to draw on its own lexicon, which is a bit of a hindrance and how damned many IV bottles of blood do we need to see crash to the floor and splatter? 1, 2 ,3, 4….
Still, it delivers some decent scares (the butterfly scene is understated, yet also a juicy sort of eerie) and clarifies where the Bad Guy came from, so to speak. There is a bit of new information that gives the franchise slightly better legs. I've "seen it all before;" this would have been a real startler 20 years ago. Now, it feels as if someone was doing mere yeoman duty, compared to the general horror field of late. The quiet moments that gave Scott's chapter some class are in evidence here, which makes it feel a bit more human. To the extent that you can be drawn into a horror film at all, you can care about these characters without being tear-jerked; the actors do a lot with somewhat limited story-tools.
If taken within just the "Exorcist" framework, its a nice exposition, especially where Father Merrin's history and motivations are concerned. (He's the older priest Pazuzu finally offed in the 1st flick.) The starting point of it all is explained, there's a dollop of interesting, twisted history to be had and I would have done very little editing for length OR content, a big plus to me.
Its not a towering classic by any means and the pacing is predictable because you already know what drives it. However, its well worth seeing once, as its dark fun of a sort. You won't be creamin' to own a DVD of it and there's possession-fu without any real breast-fu, but I can give it a respectful nod for honoring its predecessors. It tries so hard to be good, despite coming out of the gate with one leg tied behind its back, that its rather bad in a sophisticated, 50s giant-bug-flick way, but it keeps its head up without flinching and that makes it good again. If its a GLORIOUS failure, its a BadFilm.
Besides, there's a split, scaly, blue tongue in it, too. Ooo!!
- Review by St. Huey
A lead actor from the stable of Danish weirdo Lars Von Trier; african voodoo-drums; pagan rituals with leeches; Pazuzu with titties and a leigon of crucified Christians – and yet I still can't recommend it. It's soon due (already!) to be re-released as cut by Paul Schrader, perhaps I'll like it more? – Sosodada