Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tremors 2: Aftershocks

You know, it’s rare that you ever think about movie credits, except when they’re preventing you from getting to the actual movie you want to watch.

In the case of “Tremors 2: Man, That First One Sure Did Rake It In On Video, Didn’t It?” the opening credits run for a full minute-and-a-half, and there is nothing going on in the meantime. Just pleasant, vaguely-Mexican sounding balladry, as one-by-one the names of the various people who worked on the movie appear and vanish, appear and vanish.

This is not how you tell people that they’re going to be watching a scary movie, folks. This is how you tell people that the first two dudes to appear in the credits are going to fall in forbidden love with one another.

Which could happen. Let’s find out.

Once the credits come to a mercifully boring end, a burn-in on the screen informs us that we’re looking at Petromaya Oil Field, Chiapas, Mexico. So I guess the music over the credits was at least stylistically correct.

Now that we’ve established a place, the camera paaans over to show us a pair of feet dangling in the air. A Mexican oil worker is sitting on top of some pipes, trying to avoid something under the ground.

He reaches the end of the pipes, and surveys the situation. Ahead of him are several empty oil barrels, laid out like lily pads in a pond. And on the other side of them is his van.

Our first victim leaps onto a barrel, and then proceeds to jump from one barrel to the next despite the fact that the thing under the ground behind him is shoving up more than enough dirt to knock over a barrel.

Sure enough, our first meat gets knocked to the ground and devoured.

Now that there’s no one left to eat, the movie tools on over to Perfection Valley, Nevada. Which looks a lot like Mexico.

We get reintroduced to Earl, who is trying to lasso a hidden something so he can get it to mate with something else. He gets knocked over and dragged a few feet, and then we get the big reveal.

He just lassoed an ostrich. I wish I could tell you it was really funny, but it’s sort of not.

Earl hears a car and goes to meet it. It contains one goofy driver and one serious Mexican in a business suit.

The serious Mexican tells Earl that the creatures (they started calling them graboids in part I, and the name sticks for part II) have appeared in a Mexican oil field and killed a bunch of people. They want to hire Earl to hunt the graboids.

Mention is made of Val, who “married a good woman.” So I guess Val found love. With someone. Maybe he girl in the first movie, maybe not.

Earl storms into his trailer.

The driver, whose name is Grady, follows Earl in and asks why Earl is so grouchy. He notes that the Mexicans want to pay Earl $50,000 for each graboid. And we get a little backstory about what’s happened over the last seven years.

Val and Earl did some shoe commercials, it seems. And there was a video game, which is prominently displayed in Earl’s trailer.

But, as Earl notes, he should have gotten a lawyer – he didn’t see much money from the franchise that is graboid. He spent all the money he made on the two ostriches in his yard.

I feel compelled to mention two important facts here that are tossed out amongst the banter:

Grady refers to himself as Earl’s biggest fan, and goes out of his way to tell him that he has two copies of the People magazine with Val and Earl on the cover. One of them is wrapped in plastic.

Second fact: Earl points to the wall, at a picture of Miss October, 1974. He keeps it there as a reminder of things he’s never going to get. I presume he means the girl, not the magazine. He appears to own the magazine.

Much back-and-forthing happens as Earl determines whether or not he wants to go graboid hunting, and then, finally, he says yes. Which is good, because if he didn’t this movie would be pretty much over.

And Grady is going with him, so they can have more banter. Awesome banter. Banter like Earl telling Grady that while the graboids are eating Grady, Earl will have time to run away.

Grady and Earl drive down to Mexico, and you can tell when they made it because the soundtrack goes from hard-edged acoustic guitars to cheese-ball keyboards playing Mariachi trumpets.

Grady and Earl play paper, rock, scissors for the last soda, and it’s carefully established that Grady was born fully-formed from a pod, because the guy has never played paper, rock scissors before.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this is a whole setup/payoff thing, but really? A human being who has never played paper, rock, scissors before?

Earl and Grady arrive at the Petromaya field office. They meet Pedro, who does something-or-other that probably won’t be important. They get to meet their huge pallet of guns and dynamite.

And they get to meet Kate, the geologist for the oil company.

Earl is smitten.

They also get to meet Julio, who just finished setting up the seismographs so they can get an accurate head count on the creatures. No one is smitten with Julio. But we’re only fifteen minutes into the movie, so that could change.

Will Julio find love? Especially now that Grady clearly doesn’t have a chance with Earl?

Earl goes to visit Kate later that night to look over some maps. She tells him that only three workers are left, which is untrue, since we just met four people (the guy who hired Earl, Kate, Julio, and Pedro, the dude who does something-or-other). Kate also notes that six people got killed. People she knew.

With that single line, this movie has already had more instances of pathos than all of the original “Tremors.”

This pathos lasts until moments later, when Kate asks who named the graboids. Earl tells her it was Chang. “First he named them, then they ate him.” He chuckles to himself.

I’d be scared to be in a room with the man, frankly.

Grady comes in carrying a bunch of cans tied to chains. He figures they’ll hook them to the back of the truck to make noise.

Grady heads out to the truck to hook up the cans, and talks to Julio, who explains that Grady’s eyes look lovely in the moonlight. But only with longing glances. And also, the seismographs have been set up to send radio transmissions to Earl’s truck. There’s a monitor in there that will display where the graboids are at all times.

The next morning, Earl and Grady head out – and here’s the big plan:

Step one – Drive until a graboid starts coming for them.

Step two – Stop the truck.

Step three – Put a remote-controlled car on the ground with dynamite strapped to it.

Step four – Drive the car until the graboid takes it.

Step five – Blow up the dynamite.

Step six – Musical montage showing a bunch of monsters getting blown up.

Earl and Grady stop to eat, and Grady leaves their radio on the ground. A graboid eats it, only it doesn’t, really, because you can still hear the radio.

Not sure how that works. But I don’t know much about biology. And clearly, neither do the people who made “Tremors 2.”

Earl and Grady catch 40 winks, and wake up the next morning ready to kill some more stuff.

Things go well until Grady loses his umbrella (don’t ask) and gets off the truck to go grab it. The graboid with the radio inside it chases him, and ends up snagging the chain on the back of the truck.

The graboid proceeds to drag Grady and Earl around for a few minutes, until they escape when the graboid runs under a rock, snaps the chain, and frees them. All’s well that ends well, until Earl notes that their display screen is showing lots and lots of graboids in the area.

So they call Burt.

I could detail the next ten minutes worth of scenes, but suffice to say, Burt’s wife left him, and he’s bored out of his mind, so he shows up in Mexico with a whole lot of things that go BANG.

Kate, bless her heart, finds a fossil that indicates that the graboids have been around since before the dinosaurs, and are probably the oldest life form on the planet. It’s nice that she won’t let the death of six people get in the way of scientific discovery.

Burt, Earl, and Grady head out and blow up a few more graboids, but then the game changes. One of the graboids runs away from Earl and Grady. They give chase, Earl getting more and more panicked as he thinks about how the creatures are always getting smarter.

Suddenly, a graboid pops out right on top of their hood. Earl panics, and reverses, driving the truck down a short cliff, trapping the truck into a little ravine.

Earl races to get their gun, terrified that he’s moments away from becoming monster chow, only… nothing happens.

Earl and Grady get on some rocks and go for a closer look. The monster is lying on the ground, making various roars and growls.

Grady tosses a radio-controlled truck on the ground and drives it over to the creature, who ignores it.

Earl figures he’s sick and Grady states that it, “Probably ate somebody that didn’t agree with it.”

Then Grady jumps off the rock and goes to slap it. It’s clear that the fact that Earl doesn’t love him is slowly draining Grady’s will to live.

Instead of calling Burt and saying, you know, please come rescue us before we get eaten, the boys call Kate and tell her to have Pedro to get out there with his truck with the crane. Grady is all excited because they caught a live one, which means they’ll net $100,000 instead of $50,000.

Night arrives, and the boys sit and listen to the graboid as it continues to make odd scary noises. They go check on the beast, and discover that something has hollowed out their creature.

Earl thinks it’s gone through some sort of metamorphosis, and that whatever came out of the creature probably isn’t a butterfly.

But look! Off in the distance! There’s Pedro’s truck! Only… it isn’t moving.

After much deliberation, the boys investigate. They discover that the truck has been torn to bits. They also discover Pedro’s arms, minus Pedro. See? I told you that his profession wouldn’t be important later!

Earl and Grady decide to head for a nearby radio tower so they can call for help.

Elsewhere, Burt has been out of radio contact with anyone for several hours, so he decides to head back to base.

Earl and Grady arrive at the radio tower. It’s been torn to pieces, despite the fact that there were no people there.

The boys discover that there is, in fact, a car there, so they prepare to hotwire it – only they hear a growling noise.

They duck behind the car, and look into the darkness – and hear it comes. A tiny two-legged thing, maybe three times the size of a goose.

They shoot it. It dies. They hear more of them and decide to make a run for it in their freshly hotwired vehicle.

Back at the ranch, Kate is getting upset because she can’t raise anyone on the radio. Julio sticks his head in the window and says he’s going to go looking for everyone, and Kate is grateful until Julio starts screaming.

Naturally, he’s screaming because he’s being eaten by the Sons of the Graboids. Oh, Julio. If only you had declared your love for Grady in words, instead of in longing looks, you might have survived this movie.

Luckily for Kate, but not Julio, Grady and Earl drive up and shoot the new, improved creature. Then they all run for the car, which, in the meantime, has been eaten by another creature.

So they kill that one, too.

Our heroes do some math and figure out that there were eight graboids left, with three creatures inside each one. As far as they know. For a total of twenty-four. Three are dead. This makes Kate sad, as she thought they would have killed more.

Considering the fact that Kate has done nothing to assist anyone up to this point, it’s kind of hard to listen to her whine. Buck up, little solider! They’re only keeping you alive as a love interest.

Burt arrives, his vehicle covered in goo. He thinks it killed a couple dozen of the creatures. Which should mean they’re all dead. Hoorah!

Unless you’re Kate, in which case you whine about it because these creatures are very important. Scientifically.

No matter: Burt captured one.

The gang pulls Burt’s truck into a nearby shed and pull the creature out. They grab it and haul it into the office.

Unfortunately, the not-quite-dead creature on the bottom of Burt’s truck goes unnoticed. As does the fact that it grabs an MRE and gobbles it down.

Inside the office, meticulous scientific testing allows the group to determine that the creatures can only sense heat – they don’t smell, or see. They feed the creature, and it hacks up a wad of slime that turns out to be… yet another creature.

They literally just eat and reproduce. They’re like Tribbles, really, only copyrighted by an entirely different company.

(I was going to make a joke about reality TV show stars here as well, but, honestly, who has the time?)

There’s some more discussion about evolution and such, until the gang notices that the warehouse that’s attached to the office is now totally overrun by creatures who were eating Burt’s food.

So they run away, escaping to another building, which would have totally worked if the other building wasn’t missing three of its four walls.

The group decides to head for the nearest car – Julio’s. They pick up some doors that are lying around and hide behind them as they make their escape, walking carefully to disguise their body heat. After a few minutes, they cower behind yet another building – this one complete.

They run around to the other side of the building… and then run back. One of the creatures is sitting by yet another tiny wall.

Bert loads up his very large, very overpowered rifle, and takes his one shot. He completely smokes the creature, and they run for the truck.

Unfortunately, the truck was behind the creature, and Bert’s very, very overpowered rifle overpowered itself right through the engine of the vehicle. Our heroes are totally hosed. The monsters eat them all and the movie comes to a sudden end.

Okay, that’s not what really happens. But wouldn’t that be sort of awesome? Wouldn’t you totally wonder what part III was about if that was the ending?

The gang makes a run for it, heading for the nearest building. But they get spotted, and split up.

Grady runs up a tower.

Bert ends up in the shovel portion of something that looks very much like the Cat from part uno. Sort of a mini-bulldozer type thing.

And Earl and Kate race into the nearby cantina – only the things know they’re in there, and try to get in with them. One jams its tongue into the cantina, so Kate breaks a beer bottle and stabs the beast right on the tongue.

Credit where credit is due, you don’t see that in a lot of movies.

Earl finds some clothing, sticks it in the sink under hot water and slides it out the window and onto a nearby clothesline. The creatures race after it, and Earl and Kate make a run for it, climbing up the same tower that Grady is on.

Now that everyone is reasonably safe, tempers flare. Fingers are pointed.

Time passes.

Kate and Earl talk about this and that, Earl finally diving in and asking if Kate is seeing anybody.

Kate says, “Not since the monsters arrived.” Which kind of implies her boyfriend was eaten. Nice rebound there, Kate. “Well, my ex is probably some form of poop now, so, yeah, I’m free.”

Kate confesses that she used to be a model, and according to the laws of setups and payoffs, yes, she was Miss October 1974.

Kate then strikes a pose from her centerfold shot. Considering the fact that Grady is still up on the tower with them, it appears things are going to get very awkward.

Grady yells, but surprisingly enough, he’s not telling his cohorts to knock it off. No, no. Instead, he points down at the ground, where the creatures have started stacking themselves up like a collection of boxes, slowly building a tower of their own. One that will allow them to eat Grady, Earl, and Miss October 1974.

Burt looks up from his hiding place and determines that all the people-eaters are engaged in their project. So he jumps out and taunts them, which is kinda pointless, since they’re deaf, and then runs to a nearby warehouse.

The beasts chase him in, he runs out a back door and locks it, then runs to the front door and closes that as well. The creatures are trapped!

In a food warehouse.

But Earl has a plan forming. Sorta. (His words, not mine.)

He grabs a couple of fire extinguishers and has his fellow victims cover him in extinguisher foam. Grady tries to man up for the job, only when they do paper, rock, scissors, Earl takes paper and Grady takes rock.

Earl claims that paper wraps rock. Because Grady is a moron born out of pod, this plan works.

Earl walks in and goes to Burt’s truck. The monsters don’t see him until he starts to melt. With only limited options, Earl grabs a random timer from Burt’s truck and sets it to 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

Unfortunately, now he can’t escape, because he’s visible. Because the movie wants him to live, the previously very-fast-moving very-smart creatures become sort of slow and stupid, and Earl’s buddies pull him out a second-story window using a fire hose.

Earl tells everyone to run, due to the imminent explosion. Burt points out that there are two-and-a-half tons of high explosives in his truck.

Burt makes everyone run, and keep on running, until they find a ditch to cower in.

The building goes BANG. It takes out the building next to it. And pretty much everything else in the immediate area.

There’s some banter after that, but really, the final moments of the movie are all about the huge smoking crater in the ground. And the fact that the oil people owe Grady, Earl, and Burt 1.4 million dollars.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Tremors opens up with Kevin Bacon finishing up a bout of morning urination. As he does this, his credit pops up next to him, alerting us to the fact that, yes, this is Kevin Bacon, at the height of his fame, starting off a movie by emptying his bladder.

This may explain why he didn’t show up for any of the sequels.

At any rate, Kevin’s character is called Valentine, and his partner is called Earl, and they have slept out under the stars in the back of a pickup.

The movie lopes along for a few minutes, trying to get us to love these two lunkheads, who do odd jobs for bits of cash. They argue over who’s cooking breakfast, and settle the decision with a round of rock/paper/scissors. They put up some fencing.

Then they drive along discussing the fact that Valentine never thinks ahead. This goes on for another 30 seconds or so, when the boys spot the new grad student, who Val remembers is supposed to be a girl.

They drive over to meet her while Val rattles off an impressively pig-headed list of fantasy body parts he wants the grad student to have. But, of course, it turns out that she’s pretty normal looking.

If you live in Hollywood. Which should have a sign at the airport reading, “Welcome to Hollywood. You are now a six.”

The new grad student is named Rhonda, and she studies seismographs. It seems she’s been getting some strange readings. Val and Earl say they’ll ask around in town.

Then they head off to town.

In town (population 14, according to the sign), we meet:

Burt: A survivalist.

Burt’s wife, Heather: A survivalist’s wife.

Chang: Local shopkeeper, Asian.

Melvin: Sullen, basketball-tossing teenager.

Since all these people have names and personality traits, I guess we can safely assume most of them will survive.

Now we pop over to Rhonda, who buries a seismograph in the ground, then fails to notice when the little ticker that says, “Hey, dude! Activity!” goes off. We also get the first shot of creature-cam.

Funny thing, though. The creatures in this movie are under the ground. But creature-cam sits slightly above the ground, which makes it appear as if the underground creatures throw up a tiny periscope-type eye in order to track their prey.

We get a moment of suspense, but since Rhonda is the only love interest available in the movie, she gets to live.

Back with Val and Earl, more odd jobs are accomplished. Earl is talking about getting out of this podunk town, once and for all. He’s finally convinced that it’s time to move on when the septic tank emptying device they’re working with sprouts a leak and covers them both in human waste.

Amazing. Twelve minutes into the flick and we’ve already had number one and number two. The bodily function gold mine has just about been tapped out.

Earl and Val pack up and prepare to leave town. They have a short chat with Nancy, local single mom, and Mindy, her pogo-sticking daughter. She tries to ply them with work and beer.

But they say nay, and run for the border. Of the town.

This lasts right up until they spot Edgar, local drunk, sitting up on an electric tower, being all dead.

The local doctor is called, and it’s determined that Edgar died of thirst. He sat up on that pole three or four days. The doctor does not seem concerned about this in the least.

The movie then jumps to a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere, where an old dude becomes a healthy snack for… something-or-other.

Turns out the guy’s name is Fred. We learn this when Val and Earl drive past his farm and discover all his dead sheep. And his decomposing face sitting on the ground under his hat.

Val and Earl head back to town, pausing for a moment to warn some meat… I mean… um… a couple of fellows working on the highway. They tell them there’s a killer on the loose, then drive away.

The workers ignore Val and Earl, and moments later one of them jams a jackhammer through something under the ground. Blood pools up.

Final result: Two dead men on the highway, plus an avalanche blocking the road.

Val and Earl find out the phone in Chang’s is dead, and drive back to the highway to go to the next town and call the police. Only the highway is blocked by the aforementioned avalanche.

They turn around yet again, only the truck is stuck on something. Val floors it, and eventually escapes.

They head back to Chang’s, where all the surviving cast members are congregating, and make a startling discovery. A massive, snakelike tentacle with a mouth is stuck on their axle.

So they sell it to Chang for fifteen bucks.

Out in the middle of nowhere, the doctor and his wife get eaten, because the movie doesn’t need them any more.

Back in Chang’s, there is much debate about how to get help from the next town – Bixby – which is 38 miles away.

They decide to send Val and Earl on a couple of horses. They also give them guns, some bullets, and some Swiss cheese.

Really. Swiss cheese. I’m sure this will be very important to the plot at a later time. Perhaps the monsters are lactose intolerant.

At any rate, Val and Earl head out on horseback. They discover that the doctor and his wife are probably very dead, and then their horses are attacked.

So they run, and manage to escape certain death with a total dumb-luck move: jumping over a cement-sided ravine.

The creature smashes its head on the ravine, and dies.

Rhonda shows up, and the three of them spout off a bunch of pseudo-scientific jargon about what the creature may or may not be. When suddenly, Rhonda realizes that they’ve barely made it past the first 30 minutes of the movie.

So she checks her charts, and sure enough, there are three more of them out there.

They run for Rhonda’s truck, only to discover that they’re being chased. So they hop up on a rock to wait the creature out, giving them more chances to throw out science terms to keep people who claim these kinds of movies are unrealistic off balance.

Our heroes spend the night on the rock, and there’s another urination scene. Good times.

Morning comes, and they discover that the creature is still waiting for them. So they grab some convenient wooden poles and pole vault from rock to rock, finally landing in Rhonda’s truck.

Only one question: Why were the poles there, exactly?

No matter. They drive away, escaping back into town.

Everyone except the survivalists gather in Chang’s shop and debate what to do next. There’s a lot of back-and-forth, but it finally boils down to: Head to the mountains.

You know why this scene takes so long? Actors are cheap. Special effects are not. Just a little tip for you writers out there.

Debate comes to a close when everyone hears Melvin screaming outside. At first they assume he’s just fooling around, but then they all see that he’s climbed a light pole.

Chaos and screaming becomes the order of the day. This culminates with people running to various locations for safety. Rhonda loses her pants.

More discussion occurs: The have to get to the mountains, but the creatures just ate part of Val and Earl’s truck, so that’s a no-go.

Suddenly, Chang’s cooler starts squealing, which draws on the creatures right to the middle of Chang’s store. The beast bursts through the floor, and eats Chang. I’d do a bit about Asian take-out here, but honestly, it just doesn’t seem polite. He was fully half of the minority population of the town.

Out in the middle of more nowhere, Burt and Heather return home, having found nothing. They head to the basement, and Heather fires up a shell casing cleaner, which draws the creatures out thanks to lots of noisy vibrations.

Val tries to warn them about what they’re facing via CB radio, but it’s too late – Burt and Heather are forced to shoot one of the monsters over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over… you get the idea.

Finally, after much gunfire, one more creature is dead.

It looks like everything is going to be okay, and then the creatures start futzing around with the bottom of various buildings. They know that there’s food on top of them, they just aren’t sure how to get at it.

So they start knocking things over.

Much like dogs, they are encouraged in their work when they receive a tasty treat, in the form of a fellow who topples from the roof of his trailer house, which we now know are useless against both tornadoes and large worm-like beasties.

Realizing that they all need to get out of town before the deadly worms get to them, a plan comes together. They’ll take the “Cat,” a 30-ton hunk of construction equipment, attach a massive trailer to it, and drag everyone out of town and up to the mountains.

Only the Cat is about a half mile away, as the crow flies.

They fire up a little tractor and have it drive away on it’s own, while Val makes a run for the Cat. Unfortunately, the tractor hits a bump and topples, leaving Val stranded several yards away from the Cat, standing stock-still to avoid being heard by the things that go bump in the night and then eat you.

The rest of the townsfolk make a lot of noise to draw the creature away, and Val makes it to the Cat, attaches a trailer to it, and rolls out.

Everyone hops on board, including Burt and Heather, who spent their time trapped on the roof making pipe bombs. I know that sounds like a euphemism, but it’s not.

The crew heads for the mountains, and it looks like everything is going to be okay – right up until they drop the Cat into a pit trap that the monsters made.

Everyone previously sitting on the Cat race up onto the trailer. They try to shoot one of the creatures bent on eating them, and Burt tosses a lit pipe bomb over the side. This hurts the creatures enough to make them run away.

Since the trailer isn’t the safest place in the world, the survivors opt to make a run for a nearby rock. They toss another pipe bomb over the side of the trailer to drive the monsters away, then run for the rock.

Naturally, the little girl trips. But the movie is PG-13, so there’ll be no snacking on the little blondie today.

Once everyone is safe on the rocks, talks break down quickly. The survivalists are mad that they got dragged out into the middle of nowhere, and can’t make a proper stand. So they take it out on Val and Earl. Which is sort of like getting mad at a really stupid puppy. Sure, it piddles on the carpet, but you knew it was an idiot before you bought it…

Ultimately, Burt determines that rather than starve, he’d prefer to light a pipe bomb, walk out and let the creatures take him.

Earl thinks this is a great idea, but decides to vary it a bit – by lighting a pipe bomb, typing it to the end of a rope, and fishing for the creatures.

This plan works the first time – one of the beasts grabs the bomb and it blows his head clean off.

The second creature, however, spits the bomb out, and it lands in the sack of remaining bombs. Frankly, if terrifying small towns doesn’t work out for the beast, it could probably be a quarterback in the NFL. And honestly, wouldn’t, “Killer Prehistoric Creature” look great on your fantasy football roster?

At any rate, everyone survives the blast by running to the other side of the rock. Except Val, Earl, and Rhonda ran off the rock. Which you would expect from Val and Earl, but Rhonda has a college education. Perhaps there’s a reason she got sent to the middle of nowhere for her graduate work – her professors think she’s a moron and they don’t want her around.

The rest of the folks back on the rocks make noise to try to attract the giant worm-o-death, but it doesn’t work. So Val opts to run away. But he opts to run away really fast, so that’s in his favor.

Okay, his actual plan is, run to the nearby cliff, stand at the edge, wait for the monster to come racing at him, throw the final lit bomb behind the monster, and scare it into diving through/off the cliff.

And what do you know? It works.

As this happens, Val yells out, “Can you fly, you sucker? Can you fly?” I mention this because it will be important roughly two movies from now.

Later, Val and Earl are putting some new tires on their truck. They banter back and forth about how they need to make some phone calls, try to get into People magazine. Or National Geographic.

I’m glad that the fact that they saw two of their friends getting eaten in front of them earlier that day isn’t preventing them from thinking big.

A nod to how things wrapped up is in the background, by the way, in the form of a single police car, and an officer who appears to be portrayed by someone’s 14-year-old son.

Rhonda produces a camera and takes a picture of Val and Earl. She’s also very excited about the fact that she’s going to be involved in the research that will come with the discovery of the creature. Good gravy, these people are astonishingly un-traumatized by all the death.

Bunch of sociopaths, frankly.

Val and Rhonda banter for a bit, and Rhonda walks off. Finally, Val steals his nerves, races up, and kisses Rhonda.

This of course leaves the story with only one important loose end: Since the guy who runs the ONLY store in town is now dead, where are the remaining members of the town going to buy their stuff?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

I think it’s worth bringing up the title of this movie before even bothering to watch it. The title is, as you can see, “Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist.”

I guess I can understand why the company releasing the movie would title it in this fashion, but it just looks so awkward. I mean, you can’t call it “Exorcist: The Beginning, the Version that You Didn’t See in Theaters Because We Didn’t Like It So We Shot a While New Movie,” but I’m not sure that this title is any less choppy.

I suppose it doesn’t matter, since as far as the story of Father Merrin goes, nothing in this movie ever happened. Unless, of course, it happened in a different movie as well, in which case it did.

It’s weird to think that of the approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes spent showing us Merrin’s time in Africa, less than two hours of it can be considered the “official” story.

No wonder Merrin drinks so much.

Anyway, on with the show.

The movie begins in Holland in 1944. It’s a dark winter day, and a high-ranking Nazi has just discovered one of his soldiers dead in a ditch with a kitchen knife in his back.

He calls out to the local priest. He is, as it turns out, our very own Father Merrin.

The Nazi first demands that Merrin provide the name of the killer, presuming that Merrin will know because everyone confesses to him. Merrin tells him that no one in the town could have performed the murder.

The Nazi says, essentially, that he needs a name. Any name. To provide an example. Merrin says that these are all good people, and the Nazi counters that someone there must beat his wife, or something.

When Merrin says no again, the Nazi says that he’s going to shoot ten people to provide an example for whoever it is who murdered the solider. As an added bonus, Merrin must choose the ten.

Merrin first refuses, then tells the Nazi to shoot him instead.

The Nazi says no, then shoots a teenaged girl in the head. And says he still needs ten names.

Merrin begins to pray, and the Nazi says he needs ten names, or he’s going to kill everyone in the town. Merrin doesn’t say anything.

The Nazi finally gives in, and says, “You win, Father.” A second later, however, he gives orders to, “Shoot them all.”

I think the movie is trying to tell us that Nazis are bad people.

Merrin stands up and prepares to offer names, but the Nazi says it’s too late. Merrin begs, and gives two names. The Nazi tells his men to go ahead and kill them.

And we faaade out over a series of gunshots.

Then the movie leaps to British East Africa, 1947.

There’s a whole bunch of exposition, but the gist of it is this:

1. Merrin is “on sabbatical.” He hasn’t actually left the church.
2. Merrin found a church where no church should be himself and is already digging it up – he was summoned to talk to both the military and Father Francis, as the Cardinal has some concerns about a priest on sabbatical digging up a site with so much religious significance.

Long story short, Merrin can either agree to bring Father Francis along on his dig, or chances are good that Merrin’s visa will not be renewed.

Merrin is told that we must all make our little deals with the devil. Tee-hee, I guess.

With that bit of wisdom, Merrin and Francis head to the dig.

While driving there, Francis and Merrin talk to Chuma. Whereas in that “other” movie, Chuma was a driver and guide, here Merrin is driving while Chuma just kind of sits there, in the car.

He’s called on to deliver some exposition as they roll along. It appears that a local tribe is killing a large, dangerous animal so that the chief’s soon-to-be-born heir will be healthy.

Merrin pulls the car onto the compound, and we get to meet the doctor, whose name is Rachel this time around.

Merrin then wanders off and we get to meet the hotel manager and his two sons, James and Joseph. Francis comes over and says he’s going to be starting a school.

Francis then looks around and asks where the dig is located. Merrin points off in the distance, and then the movie cuts over to the dig itself.

At this point, only the top of the roof is exposed. Merrin starts babbling about how it must have been hard to build, what with the rocks they used being taken from a lake somewhere-or-other. When suddenly he realizes something: The church looks almost new.

It’s as if someone built the church and then immediately buried it.

Merrin tells Chuma to hire some more men and make them work double-shifts – he wants those walls cleared.

You know, I seem to recall that Darth Vader makes similar demands in “Return of the Jedi.” And we all know how that turned out.

Francis heads back to town to start up the new school. He discovers that he only has two students, James and Joseph. Judging by the way the scene is shot, I’m guessing this is supposed to be a moment of levity in a dark, dark, film. But since the moment isn’t all that funny, Francis taking a shot to the groin would probably be more entertaining.

Maybe that’s what this movie needs. A subplot wherein Francis tries to teach two little scamps, James and Joseph, important life lessons. Perhaps at the end of the movie they can win the big game. But more importantly, they can learn something about themselves.

Over at the dig site, one of the workers falls over and starts shaking and crying out in his native tongue. Merrin and Chuma decide to call the doctor and/or give him some water in tones that seem to say that any medical care this fellow receives is coming out of his meager pay.

While giving the worker some water, Merrin looks up and spots some guy called Cheche standing several yards away. Merrin tells Chuma that he’s going to see if he can get Cheche into the tent, but neither of them explain just what Cheche’s deal is.

As Merrin gets closer, we can see that Cheche’s face is somewhat oddly proportioned, but his actual problem is left to our imagination, as he vanishes shortly thereafter.

Rachel shows up and treats the ill worker, noting that he has heatstroke and that Merrin is working the men too hard. I guess she doesn’t want to be a nag about it, though, since Merrin quickly derails that conversation by mentioning that he saw Cheche again.

The doctor says that Cheche needs sustained treatment, but once again, doesn’t say what he needs treatment for. We do learn that all the other people of the tribe think he “cursed.” Though again, why and in what manner is left to our imagination.

The sequence ends with Merrin noting the number tattoo on Rachel’s wrist.

Merrin walks out of his tent and sees Cheche again. So Merrin leaves a large cup of water sitting on a rock. I guess for Cheche. So either Cheche can drink it, or it can evaporate in the next thirteen seconds due to the blazing heat.

Later, Merrin sees the cup on the rock, only now it’s lying on it’s side. He goes to pick up the cup and hears a dog whimpering. The dog is actually three extraordinarily badly CGIed hyenas. Seriously. They’re awful. They should have “Made with a Mac” printed on them somewhere.

Chuma comes over and fires his gun in the air, and the CGIenas dash off. Chuma notes that they are early this year.

Later, Merrin wanders the compound they all live in. It starts to rain. He stumbles across Cheche, who is lying on the ground.

Merrin takes Cheche to Rachel. Rachel cleans up Cheche’s various wounds, and notes that his arm is too messed up for her to fix, but that his leg could theoretically be re-broken by a surgeon from Nairobi.

Then it’s later, and Merrin and Rachel are drinking tea and Rachel decides to fill Merrin in on her time at a Nazi death camp.

Merrin and Rachel have a philosophical discussion about the nature of good and evil. Merrin states that he tried to do good, and evil happened. Rachel points out that Merrin helped Cheche.

It’s all pretty dull. So Merrin decides to liven things up by going back to his room, falling asleep, and having a dream sequence.

First, he dreams about a priest whose face is covered by bandages. Kind of a mummy priest. Also, there’s a clock floating around in the air.

Then, there’s the sound of a baby wailing, and a woman standing in a doorway, and she has a hole in her hand. A ghostly singing voice sings “bring him back to me,” and then one of those freaky ghost-faces from the original “The Exorcist” appears for a moment.

Then there’s another shot of Merrin with the bandages over his face. He pulls one down so he can see, and he sees a hyena. And it looks like there’s no CGI involved. Why dream-hyenas look more real than awake-hyenas is a mystery.

We don’t actually see the dream end, so I guess we can presume the rest of the movie is a dream sequence if we want to.

Merrin takes Francis to the church, which, 27 minutes into the movie, is already totally uncovered. He sees a statue standing outside the church, with a hole under it. Under the base of the statue, in the hole, is another statue. Which looks remarkably like the ghost faces in the original film.

The movie then cuts over to Cheche, who also, come to think of it, looks like the ghost-faced people. Rachel tells him he’s getting better, and Cheche says “beeeeeeeeeh… ter…”

Perhaps he will help the two boys win the big game. But really, he’ll be a winner at life, with his new vocalization skills. Cheche is coming out of his shell, folks.

The good doctor asks him if he wants his leg fixed. He does.

Back at the church, Francis and Merrin and Chuma walk in, and Francis tries to deliver as much exposition he can. So he says things like, “The war in heaven!” and “these statues are holding something down,” and “These rocks are like plugs,” and “What is that? It’s like a sarcophagus.”

It’s a miracle he doesn’t keep on babbling. “I’m going to wander over to it now. It’s really dusty. I don’t think the cleaning lady has been in. I need to wee.”

Francis walks over to whatever it is, hears a rattle, and drops his light in a panic. A really, really, really horribly CGIed snake goes zipping by. It is the only snake in the whole movie.

Merrin hears a dripping sound. At first you sort of assume that Francis wet himself, but no, Francis dropped his canteen, and water is dripping through the floor. Thanks to that and a quick breeze check on the sarcophagus, Merrin determines that there’s something under the floor.

He sends Chuma to get a few workers. And a sarcophagus opening device.

Workers arrive. The lid is lifted. Cheche, still in bed at the hospital, starts to freak out.

Merrin and crew find a hidden stairway and head down into it. Merrin points out that it is, “A temple of some kind.” A temple of doom, perhaps?

Merrin says, “I’d say it’s dedicated to HIM.” And everyone looks over at a big old pagan idol. Merrin asks Chuma which demon it is, and Chuma gives an unsatisfactory answer. It appears that it is not Pazuzu.

Francis finds some bloodstains, and says that people were sacrificed here.

Merrin says, “Yes, it’s like something out of the inquisition, isn’t it?” Francis got served, folks.

Merrin, Francis, and Chuma get in the truck to head somewhere-or-other, when they see a scene of mass carnage in a field. Several hyenas attacked some cattle. Only the cattle fought back, and won, and are now eating the hyenas.

I’m sure this is supposed to demonstrate great evil, but mostly it makes you go, “Yay, cows!”

Except eating the hyenas is causing the cows to die. Aw. Poor, valiant, cows.

The leader of Chuma’s tribe shows up and says, thanks to Chuma’s translation, that the church is evil and that they should stop digging. Which would make a lot more sense if the church wasn’t basically completely uncovered already.

And here’s a thought – what kind of idiot makes a giant church to hide a pagan temple, and then sticks and easy-to-move door on the top of the temple itself? Why not fill it with rocks? It’s like making a massive candy warehouse, then keeping people out of it by putting a really sleepy dog in front of the door. Is it a little hassle to move him? Sure.

But with all that candy sitting right there…

Merrin takes Rachel to visit the church, because as we all know, doctors love churches. He notes that the church is dedicated to St. Michael, and that the artwork on the walls depicts the war of heaven.

Rachel tells Merrin that this is the kind of find that makes a career, but she wonders what it will make Merrin.

Francis finds Merrin and says that he has to inform the Cardinal what they’ve found. Merrin tells Francis that if word gets out what’s inside the church, that there will be looting.

Francis also think that they should inform Major Granville as well. Maybe get some British troops out there.

Merrin calmly educates Francis about the fact that the British museum is mostly made up of artifacts stolen from sites like the one they’re at.

But it doesn’t matter. Hang a lamp, folks. The British are coming.

The Brits show up, and there’s a whole, “Hey, make sure you respect the local tribe” discussion that lets us know there’s rampant racism going on.

Two guards are assigned to protect the church, only instead they decide to go in to “look around” or possibly “steal some stuff” which is probably a very “bad idea.”

And then it’s major medical night, where we cut back and forth between the chief’s heir being born, and a doctor showing up to break and resent Cheche’s leg.

Final results: The soldiers steal some precious stones, Cheche’s leg gets fixed, and the chief’s baby is born dead and covered with maggots.

Granville goes to visit the church, and finds his two soldiers quite dead. One is crucified upside-down, and the other one has had his head removed and placed next to the crucified solider.

Granville demands that they be covered with blankets.

Merrin takes the surgeon to catch his flight out of town. Words are exchanged that are meant to be ominous, but sort of fall flat after seeing a dude with his head cut off.

Merrin and Francis go to see Granville, who wants to know what happened. Merrin points out that they were stealing jewels, and that the local tribe couldn’t have been responsible because the imagery invoked was Christian, not pagan.

Chuma tells Granville that a member of the tribe saw what happened. The two soldiers were possessed by a “madness,” one solider killed the other, and then himself.

Granville freaks right out. He doesn’t buy the story at all. He tells Chuma that the elders need to hand over whoever is responsible or things are going to become unpleasant.

A few days later, Merrin chats up Rachel about Cheche. He’s getting better at a rate that’s really almost too fast – his leg is almost healed. They chat for a while, when suddenly the front gates of the compound open, and a truck, a cadre of British soldiers, and a bunch of members of the local tribe enter.

Granville has had “enough” of the tribe not telling him who killed his men. He grabs Chuma and has him translate what he’s saying – which is, essentially, “Who killed my people?”

Chuma tells him everyone knows that the men killed each other.

Granville punches Chuma, who falls to the ground. Then he informs the chief of the tribe that if the chief isn’t afraid, he can give the chief a reason to be. Granville then grabs a member of the tribe and shoots her in the head.

Merrin runs over and punches Granville dead in the face. Granville falls over.

One of the higher-ranking Brits defuses the situation much faster than one would think possible. He basically tells the soldiers to stand down and the tribe to clean up “this mess.”

Morning arrives.

Francis lies in bed, sleeping and hearing voices in his head.

Merrin wakes him up, and asks how Francis is doing. Francis slept through the night in the bed next to Cheche, watching over him so Rachel could rest. Francis is, however, wracked with guilt over bringing Granville into the situation.

Merrin points out that Granville is responsible for what Granville did. He also offers to take over watching Cheche so Francis can go do his daily duties.

Francis doesn’t think he’ll have much of a class. But Merrin says that the kids seem to like school, and Francis. Of course they do! The big game is coming up, and they’ve been winning heat after heat. It’s only a matter of time before they’re the champions.

Francis says the only thing they have at times like this is prayer, and Merrin says it’s like having nothing.

Francis tries to convince Merrin that God is still with him. It doesn’t seem to work.

So Francis goes to teach school.

A surprising number of students show up, though it turns out that their parents told them not to come. It seems their parents think that Jesus Christ killed the girl. But the students all showed up because they were worried that Jesus Christ would kill them, next.

Francis tries to assure them that what Granville did was very, very, wrong, when suddenly the door bursts open and the man who saw the two soldiers kill each other comes rushing in, spear in hand.

There are screams, and when the soldiers and Merrin arrive, there are dead children on the floor.

The killer is shot, and as he dies on the floor he says that he, “…had to kill them to stop the Christian evil from spreading.”

This is, of course, the turning point for the students. They’ve lost their best players. Their only hope now is to dig deep inside themselves and realize that they were winners, all along.

Francis goes to the doctor to lie down and get some treatment for the scrape on his head. The doctor awakens him a while later and points to Cheche, whose arm has miraculously healed.

Francis offers to watch Cheche while Rachel goes to get Merrin, and Francis tells a sleeping Cheche that he may be the one proof of God they have right now. He talks about this until he hears an evil chanting in his ear, and he says, to Cheche, “You know my guilt?”

Then he does a long, long, speech, talking about how Cheche is clearly a messenger of God. This lasts right up until he touches his rosary to Cheche’s head, Cheche’s head starts to smoke, and Cheche sits up, gets all red-eyed, and says, “Don’t ever touch me with that again, priest.”

Francis falls to the floor, gets a grip on himself, and looks at the sleeping Cheche – who has a cross burned into his head.

Merrin and Rachel arrive, and after Francis tells them what happened, they figure he’s gone off the deep end due to stress. Francis insists that Cheche should be baptized. They ask Cheche if he wants to be baptized, and he says he does – in the church.

He seems to think Merrin lives there. That is not an attempt at humor. That’s straight from the movie.

Francis has no problems with this.

The movie takes a short detour to visit Granville, who tells one of his underlings to give a message to Merrin – Granville’s message is, essentially, that there’s no way out, except… and then he sticks a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger.

The hand not holding a gun falls open, and a butterfly falls out of it. I’m sure there’s a metaphor there, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to be.

Granville’s messenger passes Granville’s message along to Merrin, adding that Granville was well-liked and that Merrin should tell the locals to watch their step. Merrin says he’ll do what he can.

In the hospital, Cheche looks up from his bed and goes all creepy-looking.

Francis and Rachel take Cheche to the church to get him baptized.

This turns out to be a Very Bad Idea, as, partway into the baptism, Cheche gets all red-eyed again and throws Francis across the room.

Back at the base, the head of the local tribe wants to talk to the head of the military and Father Merrin. He has two demands.

First, he wants the church buried again, what with it being evil and all.

Second, he wants Father Francis and Cheche dead, because it’s clear that Francis brought the evil, and the soldiers. And Cheche is the only one to draw strength from the evil.

The British will be spared if they leave now.

The British are, naturally, non-plussed by the whole thing.

Back at the church, Cheche threatens Francis, then falls on the floor for a good-old-fashioned writhing fest.

Francis says he needs The Book of Rituals, and runs out of the church so he can go back to town and get it. He leaves Rachel and Cheche in the church. Because I guess he never liked Rachel much. At least, about the only way to justify him leaving her there with a possessed man with superhuman strength.

As Francis runs out of the church, he runs into Merrin, gives Merrin a short primer on what’s going on, and races off, saying, “Satan is real.”

Inside the church, Rachel stands against a wall, staring in awe as Cheche, who is now bald, stretches out his now-healed arm and says, “I am perfection.”

There’s a massive earthquake, and several rocks block the door of the church. Merrin wants to get inside right away, but the new head o’ the British army says they’ll try in the morning.

Morning comes.

Father Francis is located. He’s tied to a tree, with arrows sticking out of him. Merrin goes to cut him down, and discovers that Francis is alive, and mumbling, “It’s him. It’s him.”

Merrin looks around and sees a CGIena.

Merrin takes Francis back to the doctor’s office, and Francis begs for Merrin to give him last rites. Merrin is about to comply when Francis says that Merrin will need the book of Roman Rituals. For the exorcism.

Merrin notes that they need the approval of the archbishop (hey, one of the movies finally remembered!) but Francis tells him there’s no time.

Merrin goes back to the church, an earthquake occurs, and one of the doors opens. Merrin tells the British army that he’s going inside, and that no one should follow him.

Merrin walks inside, but we don’t see him go into the church. Instead, we see him head right into the Pagan temple, where he calls out to Rachel. After a few moments, he finds her. She appears to be in a waking nightmare of some sort, talking about how Cheche took her… somewhere-or-other. Heaven? Hell? No idea.

Merrin turns and sees Cheche, who tells Merrin that Merrin is a passionate man, and then vanishes, only to reappear at the foot of the Pagan statue.

Merrin tells Rachel to run away, and luckily for all involved, Rachel does.

Merrin and Cheche banter about how Cheche is “the great deceiver,” and possibly, “Satan.”

Merrin runs out of the temple, goes back to the hospital, and asks God to absolve his sins and purify him for this task. Then he goes and gets his priestly garb and suits up.

As he’s heading out, the guy who owns the hotel tosses a few insults about the church Merrin’s way.

Out in the dessert, the tribe prepares for battle.

Merrin heads into the temple, while in a cutaway shot, a hyena that looks like it belongs at Chuck E. Cheese looks on.

Once he’s in the temple, Merrin goes looking for Cheche. Eventually, he finds him, floating in the air in lotus position. Did I mention he’s bald and wrapped only in a loincloth? And he has read eyes? And there are, like, little divots in his head?

I just want to paint a complete picture.

(Oh, and later, his face morphs into the ghost-face thing from “The Exorcist.”

Merrin starts exorcising.

While this goes on, we get a series of shots – the angry British, a bunch of tribesmen getting ready for war, Chuma shaking in his bed, and Rachel looking like the Bride of Frankenstein and carrying a knife around.

Back in the cave, Cheche taunts Merrin with the words, “Don’t you want to go back?” Eventually, he reveals that he can send Merrin “back” to fix “the events of that day.” One presumes Cheche is talking about the day of the Nazis, but Cheche doesn’t say, specifically.

Then everything faaades out, and Father Merrin is back at that fateful day. Dialogue is altered, events start to change, and this time around, Merrin grabs the Nazi’s pistol away and shoots the Nazi with it.

The leads to everyone in the village getting shot.

Intercut with Merrin’s dream sequence.

Cheche explains that Merrin did what he could. So now Merrin is free to walk the earth without guilt, because God killed all those people. Or wanted them dead. Or something. Apparently Satan is the father of lies, and also of being really obtuse.

Merrin starts reciting again.

Outside, freaky Northern lights appear, and… a bunch other stuff happens, none of which has any bearing on the eventual resolution of the movie. Things are bad. Let’s just go with that.

Inside, Cheche spits what I guess are wasps. Bad special effects makes it tough to tell.

They sting Merrin’s face. Merrin keeps reciting.

Cheche begins to appear, sorta-kinda. He does that thing everyone who is ever possessed in a movie does, where they cry out and you’re not sure who the good guy is fighting.

Merrin’s various wasp stings look more and more and more infected and he just keeps on reciting. And then, suddenly, Cheche vanishes.

And Rachel, who was holding a knife to her own throat, kind of wakes up and goes, “Hey, there’s this sharp thing at my throat, and I’m holding it there.”

And the Chuck E. Cheese hyena’s eyes glow red.

Back in the temple, Merrin completes the ritual to a non-hairless Cheche. He presses his cross to Cheche’s lips and Cheche doesn’t start smoking, so I guess things worked out.

Some time later, the leader of the local tribe asks Merrin if the demon is really gone from the church. Merrin says yes.

The leader that that the demon is Merrin’s enemy now, and the demon will pursue him.

As the movie wraps up, Merrin visits the grave of Father Francis, then goes to see Rachel, who asks Merrin to write her. He also learns that Cheche is Rachel’s new helper.

And then, he walks off into the mist.

But is the movie over? Nah. After all, we’ve got the credits, which boast a boisterous heavy-metal song.

And let’s not forget the list of composers, including Dog Fashion Disco.

Final verdict? Neither version of this movie is better – they’re both equally well-done and completely ridiculous in equal measure.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Exorcist: The Beginning


Continuity is the thing that allows one idea to follow another in a movie series or TV show. It is that wonderful thing that allows writers and directors and producers to say, “Remember that thing that happened sixteen hours ago? That throwaway line, that scene that seemed to have meaning, but didn’t at the time?

“Now it does.”

In the case of “The Exorcist,” That Thing is Merrin’s time in Africa, when he encounters the devil (or Pazuzu, or something-or-other) and fights him/her/it off for the first time.

In the original film, we’re told that it took a long time for Merrin to exorcise it, and that it almost killed him. But that’s not, as they say, the whole story.

The whole story is told in “Exorcist: The Beginning.” Or maybe not.

Because technically, they already told that story in “Exorcist II: Complete Fiasco.”

You could argue that everyone is just pretending that II never happened, only there’s one problem with that – III exists, and it’s called III. That issue could have easily been avoided, too, because III wasn’t originally an “Exorcist” movie at all. It was based on a novel called “Legion,” which was supposed to be the original title of the movie.

Of course, they figured no one would want to see a movie called “Legion,” and they figured that people were too dumb to figure out the connection on their own, so they changed the title to “The Exorcist III,” when they should have called it “The Exorcist: Legion,” so they could pretend there never was a II.

But no, there’s a II. So that means that this prequel directly contradicts everything that happened in part II. If you want to talk about Merrin in African, this is how it happened…

Only this wasn’t the first prequel, either. Another prequel, “Dominion,” was completed, but the studio didn’t like it. So they reshot it and released it as “Exorcist: The Beginning.” Then they went ahead and released “Dominion” anyway.

Thus leaving the world with three different versions of Merrin’s time in Africa.

Does anyone else think that’s excessive?

Since this was the movie that was released to theaters and got some sort of advertising budget, I guess this makes it the real true story of Merrin. Let’s watch!

As the movie begins, the sun rises somewhere with a lot of sand, and we see a fellow walking along who, based on his dry, cracked lips, could use a drink of water. And some chapstick.

The man is dressed in robes and walking in and around several dead bodies, all dressed like knights. He stoops down when he spots a statue in the hand of one of the dead. He picks it up, and the “dead” man grabs him and says something we can’t really hear.

If you hadn’t guessed, the statue in question is the same one from the start of “The Exorcist.” It’s the head of Pazuzu.

The man who could really go for a refreshing beverage right now stands up, turns around, and the camera pans back and back and back and back to show us row after row of soldiers, who have all been crucified upside-down.

This would probably be a lot more creepy if it wasn’t so hyper-kinetically CGI-esque.

The movie then jumps forward in time to Cairo, Egypt – 1949.

The camera follows someone in a brown robe down a market street, and into a bar. The dude in the brown robe is a kid, who tries to sell someone some small something-or-other. Given the fact that the someone is drinking heavily, I’m going to guess that the fellow in question is Merrin.

Though I’ve got to wonder where his pills are. He’s just not Merrin without the pills.

Because the movie wants us to think that Merrin is a nice guy, he gives the kid a little money and sends him on his way.

Another guy walks into the bar and tells Merrin that his name is Semelier. I’m kind of saddened by this, because that doesn’t sound like a Jewish name, and I was really hoping to pull out a few “A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar…” jokes.

Semelier tells Merrin that a church, circa 5 AD, has been found in East Africa. Merrin says that this is impossible, and explains why. However, for some reason he doesn’t offer the most obvious explanation in the world – Jesus would have been five years old at the time, so it’s highly doubtful there were any Christians to build a church.

But we’re going to let that go.

Semelier whips out a bit more exposition. We learn that Merrin “used to be” a priest before the war. Apparently, something “happened.” Also, it appears that Merrin is an archeologist.

The former priest is one bullwhip away from being Indiana Jones. Come to think of it, “Indiana Jones and Pazuzu” couldn’t be much more silly than “Crystal Skull” was.

Semelier informs us, and Merrin, that he wants to pay Merrin to go the church and bring back an object. That they somehow know is in there. He passes an envelope of money over the table, along with a leather representation of the object they’re looking for.

Merrin notes that it’s Sumerian ???.

There’s some back-and-forth about whether or not Merrin is going to join the dig, but honestly, if he didn’t, there wouldn’t be much of a movie. So let.s move on.

Merrin heads to the British Army Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. We learn about the dig, which is in Derati, and we’re introduced to Father Francis, who is very pleased to meet Father Merrin. He’s all pumped about talking shop until Merrin shuts him down by telling Francis he’s no longer a man of the cloth.

One tidbit of info that’ll probably be important later: The Vatican has no records of the church they’re about to dig up.

And with that, the boys are off and running.

Merrin meets the head of the dig, and the movie tries to offer up a little suspense by saying that the top of the church has been uncovered, but that the few diggers that have remained are afraid to go inside.

A nice young lady-doctor is on hand to inform Merrin that people won’t go inside the church because of evil spirits.

Merrin and Francis head to the dig site, and start looking into things. Merrin notes that church looks “new,” almost as if it were buried right after it was built.

Merrin goes to tell Chuma, a driver/translator that they need to find the fellow who can let them into the church, and Chuma is just about ready to help when one of the diggers falls down and starts crying out and foaming at the mouth.

Oh, and also, the place is surrounded by hyenas, which are there both day and night. So if you haven’t guessed whether or not the place is evil yet, well, I’ll give you a minute to think about it.

Chuma takes Merrin and Francis down inside the church, and they walk around and get scared by bats. Francis notes that all the weapons are pointing downward instead of up towards heaven, and that a giant crucifix has been snapped off at the base and hung upside-down.

The church has been vandalized.

Merrin asks to speak to the head archeologist, Bession. Chuma tells him he can’t, because Bession has gone mad.

Chuma takes Merrin to Bession’s tent. Where Bession isn’t, as Bession is currently in a sanitarium.

Bession’s tent’s back wall has several drawings on it, all of which are kind of creepy, but nothing you’d see outside of a 10th grade art class where some of the kids are fans of heavy metal.

Merrin asks Chuma if Bession spoke Aramaic – there are words written on the tent: “The fallen shall rise in a river of blood.”

Yep, definitely a 10th grade metal fan.

Merrin goes to visit the doctor, whose name is Sarah. He asks if she treated Bession, and she says that he had a mental issue she couldn’t do anything about.

We also learn that Sarah’s father hid Jews in their house during the war, and her entire family was turned in and sent to the camps. Later, Sarah got married, and when she told her husband what happened to her, he, in her words, “Never touched me again.”

Now, not to be insensitive, but this sob story makes no sense. It gives Sarah an interesting backstory, yes. But it also means that she married a guy who never noticed the tattoo on her arm. Or, if he did, he just went, “Oh, you were in a concentration camp. That’s too bad. Let us never speak of it.”

Sarah asks Merrin about his past as well, but the movie decides to keep us in the dark a little while longer.

Merrin goes back to his room, and starts looking at the drawings. One of them is a picture of Pazuzu.

Merrins’ brain presses the flashback button, and he remembers a time when he stood by while a Nazi shot a little girl in the head. For reasons that are really, really unclear.

Merrin kinda-sorta comes out of his trance and flips out.

Elsewhere, two young brothers argue over a digging tool. This lasts right up until the really, really poorly CGI-ed hyenas show up and start tearing the older brother apart while the younger one looks on.

A few people run out in an attempt to help, and Merrin takes a shotgun and shoots a couple of the hyenas. But the older boy is dragged off.

The younger one, who has been standing by, not saying or doing anything, falls into a dead faint.

Later, Sarah examines the boy while Merrin looks on. Francis races in and reminds everyone that the hyenas acted as if the young boy wasn’t even there. If a large neon sign popped on right at this point that said, “Hmmm,” the movie could not telegraph this moment any more.

Merrin goes to visit Bession in the sanitarium. Bession is sitting at a desk in his VERY large room, facing away from Merrin. Merrin tries to ask Bession some questions, but then Bession says Merrin’s name.

The door slams shut behind Merrin. He looks at the floor under where Bession is sitting, and sees blood pooling there. Merrin asks if Bession is hurt. Bession, who is sitting around in his underpants, says, “No,” then stands up and turns around, revealing he has carved a swastika on his chest.

Bession then says, “God is not here today, priest,” which is exactly what the Nazi said before he shot the little girl in the head.

Then Bession cuts his own throat while Merrin just stands there. Doing nothing. A couple of nurses, or doctors, or maybe other patients run and watch Bession die. Behind them is the priest who runs the sanitarium.

The priest who runs the sanitarium informs Merrin that Bession was “touched by the devil,” but notes that Bession was not possessed. He gives Merrin a copy of The Roman Rituals and says, essentially, “You’re going to need this.”

Merrin reminds him that he’s not a priest any more. He’s told he will always be a priest. I guess the priesthood is like the Mafia.

Elsewhere, we get a short dream sequence from Doctor Sarah, who dreams that she’s working on some papers (whoa!) when a wind kicks up and blows them off the table (evil!) and a hyena walks by her front door. She walks into the next room to check on the sick boy, only he’s sitting on the floor with his brother’s head in his lap.

The head opens its eyes, and Sarah wakes up.

And discovers that the dude heading up the dig is lying in bed next to her.

I swear that if Sarah wakes up a second time, I’m just going to start screaming.

There are some accusations about a necklace thrown around, and then the sick boy comes into Sarah’s room and says, “He’s coming for you.” Creepy dude takes off with no further discussion, and the boy says, “I had a bad dream.”

Merrin arrives back at the village, and goes to visit the hospital. He sees the boy lying there, asleep, and discovers that the boy has some lesions on his chest.

Sarah comes out and says she doesn’t know were the lesions are coming from, and says that all she can do is watch and wait. Merrin asks if she’s going to be okay, because he has to do some work at the dig.

Even though it’s the middle of the night, and there are a bunch of killer hyenas on the loose. The man is dedicated.

Sarah first says she’s fine, and then changes her mind and asks Merrin to sit with her. She asks how Bession is doing, and Merrin says he’s dead. When she asks how it happened, he replies that it was “some kind of accident.”

I guess Bession didn’t realize that object he was holding to his own throat was super sharp. Happens to the best of us.

Sarah says, “I just don’t understand anything that’s happening here.” Frankly, she can get in line.

Sarah and Merrin kiss, which might be kind of sweet if the camera didn’t cut away to blood flowing up into the boy’s IV.

Since it’s been nearly a minute since the last freaky thing happened, the boy’s bed shifts forward three feet, and then the boy has a freaky-rattle-y thing happen.

But Merrin will not be swayed – the man must work. So he heads to the church in the middle of the night.

Merrin wanders about the church while crows flap around, being all crow-like and occasionally eating each other in order to raise the gore factor of the movie.

After a bit of wandering he discovers that a coffin hewn from rock has a breeze blowing from inside it. It’s not a coffin at all – it’s a doorway to a hidden passage.

He grabs a crowbar and starts yanking up the lid, not at all concerned about destroying a priceless artifact or, say, calling for help or letting anyone know where he’s going.

Shots of Merrin cracking open the “coffin,” by the way, are intercut with shots of a local woman giving birth to a dead, maggot-covered baby.

Merrin heads down into the completely uncharted cavern in the middle of the night with a single lantern and no one around to help him should he, say, trip and break an ankle. His lamp goes out, he re-lights it, and there, RIGHT BEHIND HIM, is a statue of Pazuzu.

Merrin spits a leopard… no, no. He doesn’t do that. At all. Instead, he goes to examine the statue, and discovers that there’s a big hole where the heart would be. Kind of like a recent president I could name.

Merrin turns around, and lots and lots of CGI flies go buzzing past him.

The movie takes a side trip to go visit the doctor and pals. Which is the say, the doctor and her little charge, who she gives some sort of injection for some reason, while outside the head of the dig sits around looking all freaky.

Throughout the movie he’s had what appeared to be an infection in his face, but now, suddenly, it’s gotten really bad. There’s blood and CGI-enhanced pus. He heads off to find some booze, and he’s attacked by something in the dark. I guess. It’s sort of unclear.

Sarah heads off to take a shower. Really. She scrubs up, and right after, the power goes off and she gets to wander around her house/hospital in a towel while carrying a candle.

The towel reaches her ankles, by the way, and is probably capable of drying a family of four.

Sarah wanders through the building until the power suddenly comes back on, scaring her. She looks back from whence she came and sees blood. A lot of blood. She looks down and, sure enough, it’s coming from her.

Time to use your imagination folks, I’m not spelling everything out for you.

Sarah goes to speak to Merrin, and tells her that the Nazis did something to her that prevents her from ever bleeding in that way again. She also tells him that there’s something evil in the camp.

Merrin, in turn, tells Sarah that the church was built on top of a pagan temple.

Merrin goes to bed and has another Nazi dream, and when he wakes up Francis grabs him and says, basically, “Hey, the head of the dig is missing, come to the bar and I’ll show you what they found!”

And what they found was a bunch of hair and teeth. In addition to a bunch of locals sitting around, looking sinister.

Francis tells Merrin that the father of the stillborn baby blames the whites for the kid’s death. Francis has called their contact in the army, and the Calvary is coming that afternoon.

Merrin, in turn has a driver take him to a grave site some distance away, where the complete population of another village is buried. And he asks the logical question: “If everyone is dead, who buried them?”

Not asked by the driver is, “Was it really necessary to make me haul you all the way out here so you could walk around for two minutes and ask a stupid question?”

(Or maybe he did. The only answer Merrin could possibly offer being, “I’m an archeologist. I do my best thinking standing on dead people.”)

The Calvary arrives. It seems that the British army is instituting marshal law, because the dig is too important to jeopardize.

Too important to whom and for what reason is anybody’s guess.

Merrin goes to visit one of the leaders of the local tribe, and a few things get reiterated. Essentially, the tribe thinks that the church is evil and it needs to be buried again. Also, we learn that the tribe cremates their dead.

“So who is buried in the graveyard?” asks Merrin. His driver does not answer.

Merrin heads out to the graveyard. At night. Alone. To dig up some graves. Though this time I understand it, as I’m sure his driver said, “You know what? I am NOT going back there. We were JUST THERE.”

Merrin gets busy with his shovel while hyenas drop by for a visit.

Intercut with this, the young boy gets tied to the bed by his father and a bunch of villagers. They chant over him, pull off his shirt, and stick some leaches on him. Sarah runs out trying to figure out what’s going on, and they restrain her.

One of the tribesman raises a knife, the lights flicker, and the room starts to shake. Two of the tribesman are hideously injured, as if by magic, or possibly by the power of an ancient evil.

Francis races in, and does nothing but get shoved over as the tribesmen run screaming from the hospital.

Merrin continues to dig, going into flashback mode. The solider who shot the girl, apparently, gave him a choice first: “I will shoot ten, priest, and you will choose.”

That’s when the soldier shot the girl.

“Now you choose. Or I will kill them all,” says the soldier.

Merrin tells the solider to shoot him. The solider grabs a young boy and prepares to fire.

Merrin starts pointing at people and the solider shoots them, one by one.

It’s actually a pretty powerful scene, and could work very well, in a movie that doesn’t feature silly CGI-enas.

Back in the “modern” day, Merrin finally reaches a coffin, opens it up, and discovers… nothing. The coffins are empty.

He attacks Father Francis, and asks what happened – the graves all have crosses on them, and so do the coffins.

Francis says that the place is damned, and then iiit’s storytime!

“There was a massacre here, 1500 years ago. An army from the West, led by two priests, searching for the origin of a powerful evil. But when they got here that evil consumed them, turning the soldiers against each other in a bloodbath. Only a single priest survived…”

That priest went home, and the Church had a church built over the site and then buried, to, I dunno, plug up the evil I guess. And then all mention of the church were to be “stricken from the history texts forever.”

I have no idea how you do that. That sounds like a lot of work.

At any rate, someone slacked off, and fifty years earlier a Vatican researcher found a letter talking about the church. Four men came to check out the church, and vanished, along with the nearby village they hired to help out.

So the Vatican covered it up, building an empty graveyard and making up a story about a plague.

All was going well until the British found the church.

And! Wait for it… Francis was sent here to see if the legends were real. “After the war in heaven, this is the spot where Lucifer fell.”

Wow. Just wow.

Then a bunch of events happen, one after the other.

Francis tries to convince Merrin that the boy has the devil in him. He says he needs Merrin’s help.

Chuma shows up and says they found the guy who was running the dig.

Chuma and Merrin go to the dig site, and there, inside the church, is the guy running the dig. Only he’s tied up in a standing position, and most of where his innards should be is gone.

Unfortunately, the head of the British army is also there, and he runs out and shoots the head of the local tribe square in the noggin.

There’s a tussle, and Chuma tells Merrin that they need to do something about the possessed kid. So Merrin takes off.

Following this, we get a scene where the head of the British army sits in his tent and loses his marbles. This lasts about a minute, and features dead butterflies stuck to corkboard flapping their wings, a dead crow, and a live butterfly crawling out of the dude’s mouth. He sticks a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger.

Merrin arrives at the hospital and tells Francis to take the boy to the head of the sanitarium. Only there’s a huge sandstorm coming, so Francis takes the boy to the church while Merrin goes to find Sarah.

Francis gets the boy to the church and gets ready to fire up the exorcism ritual.

Out in the middle of nowhere, the British hunker down and get ready to go into battle with the local population. I suppose I could have mentioned that earlier, but dude, that plot-line is just going nowhere fast.

Merrin keeps looking for Sarah, eventually breaking into her bedroom and finding it covered in blood – with a statue of Pazuzu stuck to the wall.

Merrin searches the room and finds a picture of Sarah and her husband. It seems that Bession, the crazy guy, was her husband.

Chuma arrives, and Merrin asks if Sarah went into the church with Bession. She did. Merrin looks shocked. “It’s not Joseph,” he says, Joseph being the little boy everyone thinks is possessed. “It’s Sarah.”

My immediate thoughts:

a) Huh. Merrin kissed Satan.
b) Dude! Merrin kissed Satan!
c) This movie also seems to have no idea about who Pazuzu is. I’m starting to wonder if, in fact, I’m the only guy who ever watched all these movies and did the research and actually learned about the existence of Pazuzu.
d) Come to think of it, what happened to the plot point about Merrin working for what’s-his-face, at the start of the movie? Remember that guy? Arranged for Merrin to be here? Anyone? And did Merrin ever find the object those dudes were looking for? We’re rapidly running out of movie, here.
e) Sarah being possessed is clearly supposed to be a big twist of some sort. Only, instead, it makes you go, “Oh, I didn’t realize I was watching a mystery. Um, I guess you got me there, movie. Way to fool me.”

Back at the church, Francis starts exorcising the boy. When who should appear, but Sarah. Her eyes roll back in her head, and he makes with the stabbing of Francis.

Elsewhere, the British army, a bunch of dudes with guns, prepare to fight the local tribesman, who have bows and arrows.

And at the hospital, Chuma and Merrin run outside, when out of the shadows comes a tribesman with a spear. Chuma shoots the guy and gets a spear to the chest.

Back at The British Vs. the Tribesman, things start to fall apart, as everyone pretty much starts killing everyone, friend or foe. Clearly the evil has taken over. Or no one can see anything in the sandstorm. Or the movie’s director just forgot who was on what side and said, “Can we do a shot where a dude gets an axe to the head. That’d be awesome!”

Merrin goes to the church, where he finds bloody footprints, and that’s pretty much it. He picks up Francis’s crucifix off the floor, along with the book of rituals. He asks God for forgiveness of his disbelief, and says that all the people in the area need Him.

What’s painful is, the fellow playing Merrin a good actor. Maybe even a great one. He does some nice work here. But it’s clear that the director and the guy writing the score have no idea how to make the moment work, so they go with, “Well, let’s underscore it with Swelling Uplifting Music 101 and hopefully people will feel an emotional stirring.”

But no. Mostly we feel like Merrin is ready to go pick up a gun and shoot him some Satan.

And I must mention, because it will be important – he takes some holy water and draws a cross on his forehead.

Merrin stands up, turns around, and there’s the boy – and standing above him, balanced on the upside-down crucifix, is Sarah, in full-on possession mode.

Taunting occurs on both sides, and Sarah walks over to Merrin. Finally, Merrin has had enough, and he grabs Sarah and holds her head against his holy-water-crossed forehead.

She screams and throws him across the room.

Then she drags the boy down into the coffin that leads under the church.

Merrin follows. He sees creepy stuff. Francis tumbles down from the ceiling in front of him in serial-killer-movie fashion. Making it even more obvious that the director of this film is not aware that Satan and Jason Voorhees are not really the same thing.

Merrin goes deeper and deeper into various catacombs and tunnels, until finally he’s almost trapped inside one. Then his lamp goes out. Of course. So he lights it, and… yep. There’s Sarah.

There is slashing and fighting, and somehow Sarah tosses him out of the little tunnel and into a larger cave. She sits on top of him and taunts him some more. He touches his priestly scarf to her face, and she flies across the room, landing on the ceiling.

She crawls away, and moments later emerges with Joseph in tow. Threatening words are uttered. Merrin grabs the boy, pushes him aside, and grabs Sarah into a bear hug/grapple, uttering something sort of ritualistic the whole time. Sarah stops being possessed. Josesh walks away.

Joseph is the smartest guy in the movie.

Sarah goes back to being possessed, and giving Merrin the beating of a lifetime.

Merrin ends up on the floor next to Joseph, and decides to enlist his help. So Merrin starts reciting passages, and Joseph’s job is to walk beside him and recite the written responses.

The two of head down a very, very, very long tunnel, so that Sarah, who is WAY down at the far end, can run at them in slow motion while Merrin just keeps on screaming recitations, culmination in: “In God’s name, demon, I caaast yooou ouuut!”

Sarah, who is about an inch away and running full bore, suddenly stops as though an invisible linebacker had hit her, and she falls over onto the ground.

It should be pointed out that, at this point, Merrin has maybe two scratches on his face and isn’t even breathing hard. So outside of some minor physical discomfort, this exorcism did not almost kill him.

Merrin bends down to check on Sarah, and everything seems okay until a whooole lot of blood suddenly flows out the back of her head, and she dies.

Merrin says some stuff over her in Latin, and gives her a hug while Joseph looks on.

A short time later, Merrin digs himself and the boy of the sand. The church has once again been buried.

As they step out into the sun, they look around – dead bodies are everywhere.

As the movie wraps up, Merrin meets up with Semelier (hey, the movie DID remember he exists), who asks if Merrin found what they were looking for.

Merrin gives him back the leather representation, but not the money, and says, nope, he couldn’t find it.

Semelier basically says, oh, well, okay, goodbye Mr. Merrin. And Merrin says, “It’s Father Merrin.”

And then he walks away. While we all wonder what became of Joseph, since his entire tribe is dead.