Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

Image courtesy of Impawards.com

Directed by: Paul Schrader
Category: Thriller/Horror

After my experience revisiting The Exorcist III recently, I've decided that since III was so uncharacteristically awesome, I'd give the other sequels in the series a chance since I'd never actually taken the time to see any of them because of well.....bad word-of-mouth. We all love the original right? But any other film in this franchise has been ceremoniously crucified for their sins, and perhaps deservedly so. I haven't seen them yet, so I can't vouch for them. But that's about to change right now damnit.

After being haunted by an event during WWII, Father Merrin takes a sabbatical and travels to East Africa for an archaeology expedition when soon after a seemingly new and purposely buried church is uncovered. The appearance of a young man who's possession rocks the very foundation of Merrin's faith slowly begins to tie into the appearance of this newly unearthed church and the secrets that are buried with it. 

Here's what I know about Dominion and Exorcist: The Beginning. Apparently Golden Globe nominated writer and sometime director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) was hired to direct this prequel to The Exorcist, but after having completed most of it, the studio got cold feet and shelved his film basically saying it wasn't any good. They then hired Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, A Nightmare on Elm St. Part 4: The Dream Master) to come in and remake the film again using the same actors (mostly) and the same sets, this time aiming for more of a straight up horror film as opposed to Schrader's psychological take on the material.  When Harlin's version was unanimously panned and died a quick death at the box office, the studio decided to give Paul Schrader's version another shot, putting in a few more dollars so he could complete it and releasing it a year later under the title Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. So what you have here is the same film, made twice by different directors offering a different take on the material. I agree, it's weird and confusing. I can only imagine how people felt not knowing any of this going into the theater to see Dominion after realizing that it's very similar to another Exorcist film from the year before.

Initially I went into this not expecting so much as a horror film per say, but rather a thriller. Schrader is a very talented writer, and knows how to offer up some gritty fare. Hell, he wrote Taxi Driver after all. So though he wasn't the writer this time around, I figured he could more or less gauge what goes into making a film a successful thriller. Though in his words, he was going for a psychological thriller. My thoughts? Not even close. What Dominion feels like more than anything is a drama, and a damn sloooooow one at that. I think the "thriller" tone Schrader was going for was somehow lost in the translation or editing process and what we have instead is a film so long and dull that you start to wonder, "Can Renny Harlin's version really be all that bad?". Honestly, I don't know, but I'm certainly going to find out.

I'm not going to bash the thing to death and say that it sucks, because it doesn't. It's well made, though surprisingly devoid of any real style or substance. It's just not the type of film you expect going in when the story is centered about the Exorcist mythology. It's a drama. A well made drama, but a drama nonetheless, and if you're not expecting a drama, then you'll be bored. Or at least, I was.

About halfway through when I realized this wasn't going to be anywhere near the level of awesome that the original and Part III possess, I decided to be a trooper and stick it through to the end, thinking maaaaybe the final act would somehow make up for the lackluster majority. Nope. It's an excruciatingly long and humdrum affair that packs no real entertainment value, other than to remind us why The Exorcist and The Exorcist III are such great films.

I'm not saying Paul Schrader is a bad director, because he's not. He's just not a very interesting one. And it's not all his fault. The screenplay by William Wisher (T2: Judgement Day, Judge Dredd) and novelist Cabel Carr (The Alienist) is nothing short of tedious, which is surprising considering the films Wisher has co-written before this. A severely missed opportunity would be putting it lightly because there's just nothing interesting about any of this. It's considered a prequel to the events of the first Exorcist film, yet it offers nothing in the way of backstory or completion. For example, if you never end up seeing this film, you won't be any less informed about what transpired before the first Exorcist film back in 1973. Nothing in here gives credence to the events in William Friedkin's first film and for that, Dominion is pretty much a wasted affair.

I'm going to say that I'm glad I saw this, if only for the sake of trying to complete this series of films. I don't think I was expecting it to blow me away the way Exorcist III did, but I at least expected to find the film interesting or even the slightest bit engaging. Neither was the case. Here's to hoping that Renny Harlin's more horror oriented take might actually end up being more entertaining than this drab contribution.


  1. Yeah, I watched Dominion back around the time it was released. Very slow moving. Some interesting ideas and visuals but too dull and slow overall. By contrast Renny Harlin's version - The Beginning - is fast-paced but a little bit silly too (What do you expect from the director of Ford Fairlane?).

    Neither version is very good but Harlin's is the more fun of the two. Be warned though it begins with some atrocious CGI.

    1. I "usually" like the stuff Harlin does, and so I'm actually looking forward to checking that one out. I'm assuming that it couldn't be any worse than this one. What a bore.

  2. Good write-up!

    This wasn't too bad...the Renny version is ok too, if you check your brain at the door. Haha.

    1. LOL! I'll keep that in mind! Thanks for stopping by guys!

    2. You're welcome. Happy to drop by.