Father Merrin is looking for something. After a situation
in Holland during the Second World War, when he was forced
by a Nazi to choose a handful of people to die to save several,
Merrin has lost his faith and is on an unofficial sabbatical.
In recent years he has been involved in several archaeological
digs. The biggest yet is an ancient church which has now been
uncovered in East Africa. The church honours St Michael but
appears to have been buried immediately after its construction,
for the purposes of keeping something sealed underground.
Violence soon breaks out between the natives and British soldiers,
and strange events (such as cows attacking and devouring hyenas)
become commonplace. Meanwhile, Cheche, a crippled boy whom
the locals consider to be bad luck, is healing remarkably
quickly. A young priest sees this as a sign of God and arranges
to have the boy baptised in the old church. However, Cheche
is possessed by an ancient evil, and Merrin must regain his
faith and carry out his first exorcism...
for those who don't know, this is how it went: Paul Schrader,
the director of this film, had his original film version of
William Wisher and Caleb Carr's script put on the shelf in
favour of a total remake by Renny Harlin. Apparently executives
felt Harlin's would be more accessible to its prospective
audience. But, when it failed to take the money they expected,
the studio felt obliged to dust this one off to recoup some
money. So what we effectively have here is the better of the
two versions being released straight to DVD.
Skarsgard plays Merrin in both versions, but he is given better
material to work with in Dominion. There's some interesting
dialogue when the young priest says, "There's blood. People
were sacrificed here." And the sceptical Merrin replies, "Yes,
it's almost like a scene of the Inquisitions," inferring that
the church has caused its fair share of bloodletting in the
name of religion. The idea of a priest losing his faith is
hardly a new idea, but here it is at least logical and conducive
to the plot, rather than simply the contriving of a hackneyed
I reviewed the DVD release of Exorcist: The Beginning
I mentioned how the alter of satanic sacrifice, with its inherent
blood and gore, was not necessary when treachery and deceit
from the Master of Lies is much more effective. That's what
we get with Dominion. It's more of a soul-searching
story than The Beginning which had the possessed boy
leaping around on a bed for half the film, as if that's what's
expected of The Exorcist. I particularly liked the
alter set in this film, which rather than a place of desecration
had huge angels posed in the act of spearing something in
the ground. The artwork on the walls depicts the war in heaven;
and Satan's rebellion is pretty much the earliest evil.
here include a commentary by Paul Schrader, additional scenes,
and a stills gallery.
Exorcist: The Beginning was not as bad as some critics
reported, Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist is a considerably
better telling of the tale, with more believable performances
and smooth side-stepping of the expected clichés. Because
both films tell basically the same story, my advice would
be to buy Dominion and not the other. If you're an
Exorcist fanatic wait for the complete DVD set which
is out any time now.