"Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist." What do I have to say? Haven't I already seen this film?
Actually, I have. It was called "Exorcist: The Beginning" and was directed by Renny Harlin. It starred Stellan Skarsgaard as Father Merrin, a priest who has lost his faith and who is now in a craphole part of Africa unearthing a church where there should be no church (aka it is the church of the Devil). "The Beginning" had potential but wasn't especially good, as it was flawed by horrible special effects, lackluster horror and the simple fact that it was never going to live up the original "Exorcist."
In reality, this prequel, "Dominion," directed by Paul Schrader, came before Harlin's version, and the only reason this one didn't make it to theaters in a wide release was because the studio executives thought it was too slow and boring. Of course, when they hired Harlin to re-shoot 90 percent of the film, they should have told him to make something better, because both films are pretty similar and of comparable quality.
Schrader's version is slow and boring and lacks the gore that audiences want, but then again, so did Harlin's. Schrader had said before filming that he wanted to make more of a psychological thriller rather than a shock flick, but poor casting decisions, terrible special effects and the simple fact that you have to be gory to entertain fans of the original "Exorcist" just bring this one to its knees. Skarsgaad, as he did in Harlin's version, does a good job, but the rest of the cast is mightily disappointing. The most glaring difference is that instead of Izabella Scorupco, Clara Bellar plays the nurse here, and boy is she bad. I mean, boy is she really bad. On top of casting choices, the special effects, especially those revolving around the hyenas (this was a problem in Harlin's version as well) are so bad and pointless they might as well have put a Shih Tzu in there instead.
Frankly, the two versions of the prequel to "The Exorcist" are both highly disappointing. The plot and setting has serious potential for a smart and creepy horror-thriller, but neither director comes close to succeeding. Why Warner Brothers spent tens of millions of dollars to make a marginally-better film is beyond me. Schrader's film isn't a complete disaster by any means, but for once studio executives were right - this film is slow and boring and doesn't have much gore at all.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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