Prequel to The Exorcist (1973) directed by Renny Harlin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master ’88, The Dyatlov Pass Incident ’13), this film tells the story of a much younger Father Lankester Merrin (this time played by Stellan Skarsgård) who has lost his faith and is haunted by what he experienced in World War II.

Following an awesome pre-title sequence the film moves to Cairo, Egypt – 1949, where Father Merrin is asked to go to East Africa where a church has been discovered buried in the sand, find a rare artefact, a representation of a mythical demon, located inside and bring it back. Merrin joins the dig accompanied by a young priest called Father Francis (James D’arcy). There he meets a man called Jefferies (Alan Ford) and a doctor called Sarah (Izabella Scorupco). Sarah tells him the workers won’t enter the church for fear of evil spirits. When Merrin and Francis enter the church they find an upside down crucifix and discover that the lead archaeologist, Bession (Patrick O’Kane), went ‘mad’. A young African boy called Joseph (Remy Sweeney) falls ill following the death of his brother who is torn apart by hyenas and events spiral into darkness around Merrin as he moves towards his first confrontation with the demon Pazuzu. 

Now, there’s some pretty shocking imagery in this film that is genuinely dark, and so there should be, and while it, to be fair, never stood a snowball in hell’s chance of being as good as the original it is an excellent film in its own right. The cast are superb, the effects are only a little shaky in a couple of places (CGI hyenas!), but even then are delivered effectively enough, and the story really is a very decent prequel especially considering the strength of the original film and novel alike. Yes, this is a very impressive film but it had impossibly large shoes to fill from its conception; I have heard that there may be an Exorcist TV series in the offing and I’ve no doubt that will face the same kind of frosty reception. But that said, this is pretty unmissable for anyone who loves the Exorcist films and indeed fans of horror in general.

And hey, the number one potty mouth demon is back; I couldn’t help but feel a warm glow when the demon says to Merrin, “He doesn’t care about this whore. But you do… because you want to shove your rotten cock up her juicy ass!” Now that’s a great line!

You won’t get any more plot details off me, this films deserves to be watched, not told. Maybe you’ve seen it and didn’t like it, fine. I love it. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.