Dominion - Prequel to the Exorcist
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Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (DVD) (WS)
In Holland during World War II, Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård - Deep Blue Sea) is forced by a Nazi officer (Antonie Kamerling - Mindhunters) to choose 10 of his flock to be executed, and the resulting psychological trauma shakes his faith in God. After the war, Merrin, on a temporary sabbatical from the priesthood, becomes an archaeologist in British East Africa, where an anachronistic 5th-century Byzantine church is discovered. As the archaeological crew digs deeper, it becomes clear that the church was not intended as a house of worship, but as a crypt to contain an unspeakable evil. But when a demonic spirit is unleashed, the tortured priest must overcome doubt and find renewed faith to perform his first exorcism in the horror thriller Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist.]]>
Horror buffs will surely be compelled to compare and contrast Dominion with Exorcist: The Beginning, two films weirdly linked by film history. Director Paul Schrader shot Dominion only to find studio bosses underwhelmed by its horror aspects, at which point Renny Harlin was hired to direct another take on the subject with the same lead actor, setting, and similar storyline. That became the 2004 theatrical release Exorcist: The Beginning.
As expected, the Schrader version has more tortured religiosity and visual poetry than Harlin's cheesier (but admittedly gripping) re-do. Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) carries his guilt from the Nazi occupation to a remote African archaeological dig, where a mysteriously buried church has been uncovered. Strange stuff happens nearby, and a fervent young priest (good performance by Gabriel Mann) parries spiritual points with the now-doubting Merrin. Some of the ideas are strong and the sun-and-sand cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro is often stunning. As beautiful as the film is to look at, it must be admitted that the climax is disappointingly flat, the leading lady (Clara Bellar) is a washout, and one begins to yearn for the occasional genre shock of the kind Schrader was able to conjure up in his remake of Cat People. If you're an Exorcist fan, watch it for its serious treatment of Merrin's crisis, which ties in to his character in the 1973 original. --Robert Horton
- Additional scenes
- Stills gallery
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It's fine. The directing and the acting are actually quite good for a film that was never released to the theatres. For having such a large cast and a unique setting, I was surprised that this film was able to pull that off. Certain of the special effects toward the end are sort of laughable, low budget nonsense, but apart from that regrettable drawback this movie is fairly engaging and definitely watchable.
It just isn't scary. Not at all. The demon from the original film makes its first appearance here but, strangely, it doesn't come off as threatening in the least. The most ominous parts of this film, rather, were scenes featuring growling predators and dead cows. When the actual antagonist appears, there is no real foreboding. That's a disastrous outcome for an Exorcist film. The character who is possessed is portrayed not as a haggard demoniac, but rather he is presented as a smooth and perfect vessel for the spiritual entity, who actually heals and improves upon its host body.
As a character piece about Father Merrin, this probably works. It isn't a horror movie, though.
Here's why. Too many people think that the demon stories in the Bible and elsewhere, are comic. Serious attention, is usually sparse. Few films on demonism cover the commonalities to show a kind of strategy. But logic would tell you, if God is invisible and Satan also, it's to PLAY OUT some kind of conflict. Both in silly and sophisticated ways.
So if what you want is blood and guts, many cheap productions on demon possession are available; don't pick either of these films. If instead you wish to understand demonism, you need a lot of background material. 'Dominion' here processes some of that background material so you can experience the results unfolding, and ponder the ideas. Film's plot premise isn't too believable -- a church which is built atop a pagan temple to 'lock in' a demon -- but the underlying ideas are quite believable indeed. Cast is superb, the movie builds slowly in pace and gives you plenty to think about; real and varied plot lines, and a minimum of gore. Some moments are childish -- typical of supernatural films -- to cater to an audience. Some of the scenes are truly subtle and sophisticated. Apt focus on cultural differences, and the problem of Catholicism or Christianity in other countries. On the question of faith, and why God seems to be so far away. I want to say more, but don't want to give away the story.
The flat tones in the actors' lines enhance the suspense and realism. The DVD quality is wonderful, no 'box' effect. I would have paid 10x the price for this movie, with no regrets.
I would have given it five stars, but for the anti-Biblical ending and in some parts, choppy film editing. The 'extra features' on the Dominion DVD are of some use: Paul Schrader comments on the technicalities of making the film. Else, forgettable.
'The Beginning' has no extras, and is in video box style (which I find irritating); but is in its own way, a useful film, more in the 'tradition' of the original Exorcist and especially Exorcist II. Two different story ideas fleshed out from the same premise. Again, these two should be paired for sales. Worth it, even at a much higher price.
Obviously, I am not a big fan of this movie... seems like more than a few people are. I went into this wanting to like it, having read fairly good reviews here. Sad day for me! It was just awful, and a huge disappointment. The story line was a mess, and although there were very decent actors involved I don't think their talents were used very effectively. I can enjoy an involved story line and can be very patient with a slow pace if the payoff is worth the trouble. Definitely not the case here. The most obvious of plot line turns are used, and used poorly to boot. I'm sorry, but it was just boring, boring, boring. The 'special' effects were also quite bad; some of the worse I've seen in quite some time.
Having the chance to see the other version "Exorcist: The Beginning" was useful in being able to compare these two movies back-to-back. I'm not going to say that 'The Beginning' is the best movie ever made, it has it's own flaws... but it's not dull, the 'thrill scenes' come off better than those here, the 'special' effects are put to better use and are of a better quality overall. I liked the plot better, it wasn't so bloody obvious.
The only reason I decided to write a negative review (which I don't like doing about anyone's work) is to give someone who's wondering which movie to watch a little perspective, so they won't feel quite so cheated. I do, however, agree with many reviewer's here; both movies fall short of what could have been. This one just fell really, really far.
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Directed by Paul Schrader. Written by William Wisher Jr. and Caleb Carr.Read more