Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist Movie Review
Dominion is a strange -- probably unique -- case in modern cinema. It's not a remake but rather an idea produced at almost the same time as another director, but the company preferred the other version over Schrader's. The other version was directed by the frantic Renny Harlin and was one of the worst films of last year, calling on every false move in modern horror. Schrader's doesn't have much of a differentiation in plot. Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) resigns from the faith after witnessing an atrocity during the Holocaust and reinvents his life as an archeologist. In East Africa, he is one of the main discoverers of a buried temple, built upon a temple for pagan worshipers who specifically kneel to a demon named Pazuzu. Assisted by a young priest (Gabriel Mann), Father Merrin investigates the temple, a young man named Cheche (Billy Crawford), who might be Christ reincarnated, and a growing war between the British army and the local African tribesman.
We can see Schrader, more than ever, trying to grip with a transcendental (spiritual) aesthetic here, dragging out scenes to obscene lengths, many times only using two or three shots. But what's really different from Harlin's version? Not much. There are definitely some more intelligent choices made. The love story that plagued Harlin's version is restrained and is only slightly touched on in this version. This allows more time for the more interesting sections of the story, specifically the war between the British and the local tribesman. Schrader wants to turn the Exorcist prequel into a study of spirituality amongst class warfare, but he doesn't push it far enough. Instead, the long takes just register as monotonous, mainly because Schrader and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro never take any risks with the shooting of the film. Most of the film is completely done with a Steadicam but never has any feel for the complex construction of shots that his heroes (specifically Ozu) took meticulous time with. The film comes off as tiresome and humdrum instead of thrilling, though that stillborn baby covered in maggots is still creepy as hell.
One has to wonder why a director who has his own style that shines so brightly in films like Hardcore and the mesmerizing Auto Focus would feel complacent with his own dazzling narrative tricks. However better this version is from Harlin's fake, shallow version can be easily overlooked by the fact that we still don't feel the chills or experience the nightmares that William Friedkin's original The Exorcist haunted us with. And while Bresson, Ozu, and Dreyer made us consider many deep spiritual and existential questions, Dominion will only make you wonder what other things you could be doing on a Sunday afternoon. Schrader, consider the score settled.
The DVD features deleted scenes (though you could just watch the other movie instead for that stuff) and a commentary from Schrader.