Famously shelved, then re-shot with some new cast members and a different script by director Renny Harlin as Exorcist: The Beginning.
Caleb Carr and William Wisher’s screenplay introduces Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) in Holland near the end of World War II forced by a Nazi officer to choose ten Jewish villagers to be executed. His alternative: to see all of the villagers killed. Five years later, Merrin is in British East Africa, working on an archeological dig of a church that had been built above a pagan temple. The temple becomes the arena where Merrin and the Devil have their first clash, and the withered body of native boy Cheche (Euro pop star Billy Crawford) the battlefield between good and evil. A cerebral contemplation on the getting and losing of faith, where demonic possession is a contagion born in the hearts of men and carried across time and space, infecting entire communities in its wake are the prime concerns of Schrader’s horror story. It’s one that will unexpectedly move and astonish in the way Schrader’s past works Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Obsession, American Gigolo, Cat People and Auto Focus always have.