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as of: 10/26/06

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist



out of 10


Paul Schrader


Stellan Skarsgård .... Father Lankester Merrin
Gabriel Mann .... Father Francis
Clara Bellar .... Rachel Lesno
Billy Crawford .... Cheche
Ralph Brown .... Sergeant Major
Israel Aduramo .... Jomo
Andrew French .... Chuma
Antonie Kamerling .... Kessel
Julian Wadham .... Major Granville


The story of the two Exorcist prequels is a strange one.  To make a long story short, this film by Paul Schrader was the original Exorcist prequel.  However, when the studio ran it through some test screenings, they deemed it not scary enough and too slow.  So they fired Schrader, hired on Renny Harlin, and scrapped large portions of the movie and a decent amount of the cast as well.  Stellan Skarsgård, the actor who plays the famous Father Lankester Merrin, was one of the few carryovers.  Even he wasn't the same however.  In this film, Skarsgård plays a more subdued, tortured Merrin.  In Exorcist: The Beginning, he is essentially an Indiana Jones like character who regained his faith far too quickly and almost as an afterthought.  Enough of the comparisons, however.

The beginning scene of Dominion was very well done, IMHO.  Merrin is a local priest in Holland late in World War II.  Unfortunately for the good father and his parishioners, a member of the feared SS is found killed by other members of his unit.  The officer in charge is determined to teach these people a lesson, and requests that Father Merrin choose ten of his flock to be executed.  When Merrin hesitates, the brutal Nazi starts killing innocents, and exclaims "God is not here today."  This scene shows quite shockingly how Merrin came to lose his faith in God.  As we fast forward to late 1940s Africa, we see a man still struggling to come to grips with his belief and faith (or lack thereof) in God.  Merrin has been called in to help with the excavation of a mysterious church found in the desert.  As more of the church is uncovered, Merrin moves slowly but surely towards his first showdown with Pazuzu.

I apparently enjoyed this one more than the masses.  I agree that the movie isn't necessarily "scary", and it does tend to drag in parts.  In addition, I didn't particularly like the lead actress or Merrin's priest assistant.  With that said, I thought Schrader's version was by far the better prequel.  It is superior to Renny Harlin's film in almost every facet, with the exception of "less use of CGI jackals for unnecessary jump scares".  It allows the viewer a look into Merrin's mind and shows you the struggle he has with his faith, one that is ongoing throughout the movie.  It also sets the stage for the 1973 film quite nicely, in my opinion.

Take all of what I said with a bit of a grain of salt.  It is apparent that not many critics and only slightly more moviegoers enjoyed this movie as much as I did.  If you like jump scares and "action", go see the Renny Harlin version.  If you'd like a solid, though slow and somewhat flawed, prequel that delves into Merrin's faith, check out Dominion.  I'd probably recommend renting both of these and watching them back to back.


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