Prequel to The Exorcist
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stellan Skarsgard, Gabriel Mann, Clara Bellar, Billy Crawford
Director: Paul Schrader
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Stills Gallery
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: October 25, 2005
you praying? To God?
God isn't here today."
became a tale of two movies. When
Warner Bros. decided to greenlight a prequel to The Exorcist, the first
man to take a shot at it was director and famed Martin Scorsese collaborator
Paul Schrader. He cast Stellan
Skarsgard in the role of the young Father Lankester Merrin, and his movie Dominion
spun a tale about how the priest lost and regained his faith in the face of
a terrifying evil.
the powers that be rejected the movie, deciding it was too cerebral in its
approach and didn't pack enough scare power.
Enter Renny Harlin, noted action director, to make a separate version.
His movie Exorcist: The Beginning also starred Stellan Skarsgard,
and went for the opposite approach: it
delivered scares and effects, but had no brainpower, actually going so far as to
claim a Christian church was built in 5 AD.
I guess you'd have to call it the Church of Jesus the Toddler.
seen the Harlin film, now fans at last get a chance to see Paul Schrader's take.
In viewing Dominion, I could actually see both sides of the
argument. I was impressed that the
film was smart and didn't play down to its audience, and that it took its
theology seriously, treating the struggle between good and evil as a very real
and very consequential battle. But
as a horror fan, I have to be honest and admit the studio heads were right about
one thing: the picture doesn't scare.
back story of Father Merrin remains the same:
during the Nazi occupation of Holland, a German officer forces the priest
to pick ten Jews out of a crowd to be shot, otherwise, all of them would be.
Merrin spends the next years unable to recover from the blow to his
ends up in an archeological dig in British East Africa, alongside a stalwart
young priest named Father Francis (Mann). What
they find is extraordinary: an
ancient Christian church that seems to have been built and deliberately buried.
The statues and artwork inside depict St. Michael the Archangel and his
heavenly battle against Lucifer and his followers.
Everything in the church looks downward instead of up, almost as if they
were trying to keep something from coming up...
dig takes place during a growing unrest between the natives and the British
army. Some of the natives have
embraced Christianity, others don't trust it...it doesn't help that Merrin is
now a man caught in the middle. When
a pair of soldiers attempt to rob the church and end up murdered in biblical
ways, Merrin and Francis must get to the bottom of the mystery before an all out
war breaks out.
the same time, a crippled native boy called Cheche (Crawford) seems to be
getting miraculously better as the exploration goes further.
Is it the power of God, as Francis believes?
Or is something from the other side taking hold of the boy?
in this film is not a haunted house or an ax wielding murderer, but rather, a
dark presence that consumes the human heart and soul, turning man against man
and man against God. It's hard for
someone who experienced what Father Merrin did to accept the idea that God
allows evil to exist...yet in his case, facing it is ultimately what restores
is one of my favorite actors, and the story of how Merrin loses and regains his
faith is wonderfully told, encapsulating a kind of spiritual journey that many
of us go through. There are no
parlor tricks at play here...what we are witnessing is a showdown between a very
real God and a very real Satan, and the battleground is not Africa, but the
applaud this movie for the courage to take its theology and religious philosophy
seriously...no little 'winks' to let you know that it's really just a fantasy or
a joke. There is real profundity at
play here, and eternal matters are given weight and thoughtfully contemplation.
But on the other hand, I wanted to be scared a lot more than I was.
The original film remains one of the scariest I've ever experienced, and
it managed to be horrifying while taking its source material seriously.
Dominion achieves a kind of quiet, wakening spiritual dread, but
its slow pace and lack of terrifying moments might try the patience of some
if you get past the fact that you won't be watching a typical scare film, and
are willing to drink in a serious treatise on God, the devil and the humanity
that dwells between them, Paul Schrader's film will be the version you treasure
more. Renny Harlin may know how to
deliver a big, empty crowd-pleaser, but a sober reflection on the real nature of
good and evil? You don't see that
is a mostly good looking transfer from Warner...the film employs a look that is
frequently saturated by harsh sunlight or enveloped in darkness.
As such, there is occasional grain and softness and less color
definition. These are likely
artistic choices by Schrader, and though they don't lend to crafting the best
looking DVD you'll own, they're still effective overall...no real complaints.
5.1 soundtrack is a real treat, as they tend to be with horror movies.
More than just a barrage of sudden noises and music cues, Dominion provides
an enveloping, atmospheric approach. The
rear stage adds constant ambience with echoes, winds, crowd noises, and the
kinds of sounds you'll hear in a deep dig beneath the earth's surface.
Dynamic range is strong, dialogue is clean and clear, and when it does
come time for the movie to deliver, watch out.
disc includes a commentary by Paul Schrader...informative, but occasionally a
little dry. There are also 6
deleted scenes and a stills gallery.