Years before Father Lancaster Merrin helped save Regan MacNeil's soul, he first encounters the demon Pazuzu in East Africa. This is the tale of Father Merrin's initial battle with Pazuzu and the rediscovery of his faith.
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Lankester Merrin is a archaeologist by profession but an ordained Roman Catholic priest who has lost his faith and abandoned his vocation. He is haunted by what he was forced to do in his native Holland during World War II. The church he's excavated in Northern Kenyan dates to the Byzantine period but this puts its construction hundreds of years before Christianity was introduced to the area. the church was buried to the rooftop in sand and as its structure is exposed, a madness slowly descends on the camp. the local tribesmen are prepared to go to war and demand that the church be buried. Soon, two British soldiers are found dead and their commanding officer, Major Granville, shoots a innocent civilian in cold blood. As fear descends upon everyone in the camp, it becomes apparent that a young disabled boy, Cheche, is possessed by the devil forcing Merrin to re-examine his own beliefs. Written by
The uniforms worn by the British major and the other Imperial troops are from the wrong period. They are uniforms that were worn up until the Second World War, and NOT after, as shown in the movie. See more »
I am Obersturmfuhrer Ralph Kessel from the S.S., and this is one of my men. We found him in a ditch with a kitchen knife in his back, murdered by one of you. You see the German army retreating, and it makes you feel hope. It should not. So, who is responsible for this?
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At the extreme end of the end credits, after the last production company logo has faded out and the screen is entirely black, a demon voice grumbles "I am perfection". See more »
Unequal to the Oiriginal, but Much Closer in Spirit Than 'Beginning'
Much has been made of the peculiarly Kafka-esquire journey of 'Dominion': originally in the hands of the late John Frankenheimer, the 'Exorcist' prequel project was turned over to Paul Schrader, director/screenwriter best known for dark, gritty, existential dramas such as 'Taxi Driver,' 'Hardcore,' and 'Auto-Focus.' Schrader delivered a film allegedly close in spirit to the original, but the suits were unsatisfied, feeling that the film they'd been given lacked the necessary frights to please the current audience for horror films. As has been amply explained, the original 'Exorcist' was itself much less a horror film than a psychological drama, spare of excessive fun-house shock value, but the audience has changed--younger, dumber, and trained to expect cheap thrills--and the decision was handed down to re-tool the film to add more special effects and gore. Schrader refused, was fired and replaced by Renny Harlin, who re-shot the film almost entirely with a significantly revised story, several new actors and characters, and a decidedly less cerebral approach. But Schrader's film was already in the can, and horror purists and Exorcist junkies were left to wonder what might have been--if, for once, there might be a sequel/prequel that made genuine efforts to add to a story's mythic tradition rather than merely to exploit its notoriety to sell tickets and popcorn.
At last, we are able to weigh in on 'Exorcist prequel: take 1,' and while it certainly doesn't capture the original's aura of terror and dread, 'Dominion' reminds us that the most frightening terrors are in the subconscious and the imagination, and offers a more patient and believable glimpse into how Father Merrin first encountered the demon that would later find its way into a particular corner townhouse in Georgetown.
Schrader's direction--aided by the camera of legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storraro--is patient but not without scope. They frame the African hill country beautifully, and while things at times seem a bit too clean and tidy, I didn't consider the film 'slow.' Skarsgard's Merrin is essentially the same character as in 'Beginning,' and while he isn't inadequate, his performance may be a bit too restrained. As in the Renny Harlin cut, we are told that Merrin has left the priesthood out of guilt and anger at God over a particularly horrific confrontation with man's inhumanity to man in Nazi-occupied Holland near the end of WW II. More is made of this back-story in 'Dominion,' but Merrin's crisis of faith seems less palpable and torturous than that of Damien Karras in 'The Exorcist,' so that his re-conversion to belief doesn't register the expected intensity. Gabriel Mann appears as Father Francis (due to schedule conflicts with the re-shoot, he was replaced by James D'Arcy in 'The Beginning'), and his tender, almost androgynous demeanor makes him an endearing and appealing character. Clara Bellar appears as Rachel, a character entirely written out of 'The Beginning' and replaced with a sexier version of the same, played by Bond girl Isabella Scurupco. Bellar is more believable as a nurse in East Africa, and her back-story creates a connection with Merrin, but she still seems a bit out of place (though certainly far more appropriate to the story than her counterpart in 'The Beginning'). Julian Wadham reprises his role as a tormented British Major, to strong and believable effect. The climactic confrontation with Pazuzu is entirely different in this film, and far more believable (and chilling).
Nevertheless, there are some inconsistencies, and the framing of the exorcism scene lacks the intensity of the first film's, largely because the audience is never adequately introduced to the victim. A big part of what made 'The Exorcist' terrifying is that the audience is given the opportunity to watch the full transformation of a sweet, affectionate child into a bile-spitting, profane shell for a malevolent spirit. 'Dominion's victim is never fully introduced, and thus, the audience has less of an investment in his exorcism.
In the end, however, this film far exceeds the quality of the amusement-park silliness of 'The Beginning,' and while it's not likely to break the bank, it is certainly the most respectable of the films based on Blatty and Friedkin's original.
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