Movie Recommendation- Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
The story behind Paul Schrader’s prequel to The Excorcist, helpfully titled and subtitled Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist , is complex and interesting enough to make for its own movie. It was originally to have been directed by the legendary John Frankenheimer, who left the project due to illness before production began and died a month later. After that, Morgan Creek replaced Frankenheimer with the heady and provocative writer/director Schrader (The Last Temptation of Christ, Auto Focus). Upon seeing that Schrader had gone ahead and made a heady and provocative film, they shelved it and brought on successful genre hack Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea) to reshoot a more conventional telling of the story with the same cast and locations. I’ve never seen Harlin’s version but I understand that the basic story is the same. Stellan Skarsgård plays Father Lankester Merrin, the role inhabited by Max von Sydow in the first two Exorcist films. Merrin has left Holland during the Second World War and relocated to East Africa. During the unearthing of an ancient, buried church, he faces off against a literal demon while internally combating the figurative ones of his past. Dominion has not been well-received and it’s true that the limited budget shows, especially when the visual effects appear, but its critics seem to overlook what makes it both great in its own right and unique within the franchise. Schrader, as in Last Temptation, is concerned first and foremost not with the horrific spectacle of the supernaturally evil but with the immediate and everyday evil done by human beings. What Merrin witnessed in Holland at the hands of an SS officer is just at terrifying and unsettling – perhaps more so – than what he endures in the presence of the demon Pazuzu. This heavily empirical exploration of malevolence mixed with the director’s tendency toward spiritual angst among mortals makes this film something that will appeal to Schrader fans and David Cronenberg fans alike. What more could you want? Unless, I suppose, you’re a Renny Harlin fan.