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Exorcist: The Beginning - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

WILLIAM Friedkin’s The Exorcist remains one of the scariest films of all-time, although attempts to cash in on its success in later years have drawn mixed results.

Exorcist 2: The Heretic, for instance, was largely ignored, despite starring Richard Burton, although William Petty Blatty’s Exorcist III (the official sequel to the original), was a genuinely unsettling affair which, at times, reached the terrifying heights of its illustrious predecessor.

Due for release in October of this year, however, is the latest film in the ‘franchise’- Exorcist: The Beginning, which takes the form of a prequel to the events in the first movie.

Stellan Skarsgaard plays a young Father Merrin, who is working in Africa shortly after World War Two.

When a young boy begins to suffer the same symptoms of demonic possession as Regan in the original film, however, it’s not long before it becomes clear that Pazuzu, the demon from the first film, has claimed the boy as part of his plan to take over the world.

The film co-stars Billy Crawford, Gabriel Mann and Izabella Scorupco and is directed by Renny Harlin, who controversially replaced first-choice helmer, Paul Schrader (Auto Focus) when the producers decided the original version wasn’t gory enough.

Indeed, the film has been dogged by reports of re-writes, distributor interfering and director fall-outs, making its prospects look decidedly shaky, to say the least.

A new trailer has just been released, however, which looks suitably creepy, with the good Father Merrin exploring lots of creepy holes in the ground.

But it takes the form of a teaser, and doesn’t reveal much more.

However, there is some hope that even if the Harlin cinema version fails, then viewers can still see Schrader’s original vision, as producers, Morgan Creek, recently announced plans to release two completely different prequels on DVD.

The decision marks some sort of victory for Schrader, who insisted, in an interview with Variety: "I'm very proud of my film, and I think it deserves to be seen."

He maintains that his version of the prequel delivers exactly what he was asked to shoot, adding: "They made it very clear - no spinning heads and no pea soup. But then they changed their mind."

Prior to the difficulties the film faced with Schrader, it was to have been directed by John Frankenheimer, who subsequently had to step down due to ill health, before dying a month later.

The film is due to open in US cinemas in August.

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