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on December 10, 2012
This movie is acceptable fare in the "exorcism genre." There are better; there are worse. It is comparable to the other version (with d'Arcy) in respect to general casting, storyline, pace, etc. - with one exception: The use of the "possessed child" in the other version adds a creepier dimension that is lost with the casting of the young man in this version. If your expectations are not too high, then this movie may work for you next Hallowe'en.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 14, 2015
Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) travels to a town in East Africa to participate in an archeological excavation where an ancient Byzantine church is unearthed. The mysterious and perfectly preserved temple dates back to a time before Christianity arrived to the region and the evidence suggests that the church was buried as soon as it was completed. Panic among the townspeople soon follow and evidence of a demonic force gives reason to suspect that something else was unearthed.

Directed by Paul Schrader, “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist”, was the original prequel to "The Exorcist" but it was deemed too disappointing for studio executives so they asked Renny Harlin to take over and redo the film (or so I heard). The end result was the much maligned but mildly entertaining "Exorcist: The Beginning". Admittedly, this version is not as graphic as Harlin's but "Dominion" has other qualities that are superior. This version concentrates more on the story than scare tactics, so there is more character development. Even the demon is given more depth here and the script steers clear of the cheesy dialogue that permeates Harlin's version. One of the stand-out performers here is Gabriel Mann. His portrayal of the other tortured priest, Father Francis, is poignant and in my opinion, out performs the rest of the cast, despite Skarsgård commanding presence. The supporting cast range from great to just okay. Julian Wadham who plays Major Granville is great. His character is far more gripping here than in Harlin’s version where he became more of a caricature. His demise in that film, is a bit comedic, here, it is far more tragic. Clara Bellar unfortunately is a bit of a letdown. Although relatively pretty, her character is a bit flat when viewed alongside the other, more interesting characters.

"Dominion" is not as horrifying as the 1973 classic but if you let yourself get too involved with the events taking place, it may end up affecting you more than you thought it was capable of. What we see more of here is the diabolical, murderous deeds of man. The opening segment for instance, involving Merrin and the Nazi's is unpleasant and disturbing to the core. A similar grisly scene is replicated in Africa years later and with Merrin bearing witness to it again, it all comes full circle. A disturbing visualization of the evil of man and the loss of faith. There is a similar scene in Harlin's film but it is repeated so often throughout that whatever impact it originally had becomes lost. More often than not, less is more.

The victim of demonic possession also differ's. For those who have not yet seen either of these movies, I will not give spoilers. However, I will state that in "Dominion's" case, it does not really contradict the original film's story, at least in regards to the characters. I cannot say the same for Harlin's picture. Another aspect of Schrader's account that is dissimilar is in the make-up effects. In Harlin's interpretation, the possession make-up resembled that of the original "Exorcist". The victim had the same facial scarring and characteristics. In "Dominion", it does not. The exorcism scene, visually, when compared to Harlin's version, is not as grotesque (or as lame) but this exorcism was far more successful. The demon played more with Father Merrin's head and emotions. It was less destructive physically but not emotionally. While watching the other prequel, I wanted more shocks yet when watching "Dominion", I did not. Schrader set the tone to such a different level, cheap shocks would have changed its tone completely, it would have seemed out of place. While "The Beginning" is gorier and plays more like a typical contemporary horror movie, Schrader's version is a more psychological experience. It does not rely on cheap thrills to torture its main character and its target audience. For this reason, I proclaim it the winner. It is not perfect though. Despite some good performances and some tense scenes, the film moves along slowly and its running time of nearly 2 hours doesn't help. Genre fans may also find this film disappointing as it lacks gore and it never reaches the sheer terror of the original film. It is a film that requires patience. View it objectively and you may be pleasantly surpised by it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 27, 2014
This cut was rejected by Warner who, for some reason, felt the movie lacked a lot of things. I don't know what things they were, but sure the movie is lacking in a few spots: the pace is quite slow, in fact sometimes we get to the bottom of things before the movie does, and some of the development in the narrative and the characters feel if a bit forced. Nonetheless, you couldn't do a better film than William Friedkin's The Exorcist, much less when it's about a third sequel (being a prequel). Stellan Skarsgaard is quite interesting playing a younger father Merrin, even if he hasn't got much to play with.

Special features are quite rare here, just as the other cut, but even shorter. A commentary track, a few deleted scenes and that's about it, but the commentary is a tall leap from the "Exorcist 4" one... this one felt a lot more honest and true.

Do yourselves a favor and forget Harlin's movie, unless you really want to, for the sake of comparison. This one is three times better.
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on November 2, 2007
sometimes you go into a film with very low expectations,and
occasionally you are pleasantly surprised.for me,Dominion:Prequel to
the Exorcist is not that movie.but,it was on cable,i had nothing better
to do,and i try(but admittedly,not always)to give every movie the
benefit of the doubt.but i could find very little good about this
film,other than the end credits.Stellan Skarsgard is a very talented
actor,but i feel his talents are wasted on this movie.i also found the
movie to be disjointed and it had many scenes that don't seem to have
relevance.but then again,i didn't feel the movie had much relevance does at times become a bit preachy,which i found very
annoying.i thought the CGI was pretty bad in this movie,in fact some of
the worst i've ever seen.but i guess the thing that bothered me most
about this movie is the lack of tension,suspense or sense of danger i
felt while watching.this movie is just way to slow for me and doesn't
make a lot of sense.for me,a 0/5
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon August 25, 2006
It's not often that you get the chance to watch two different versions of the same film, especially one associated with a landmark motion picture such as The Exorcist. I was a little more impressed than most with the theatrical release (Renny Harlin's version), Exorcist: The Beginning, but - once I learned of its existence - I yearned to see the first version of the prequel directed by Paul Schrader. At one point, there were rumors that both would be released together on DVD, but it turned out that we had to wait a little longer to see the prequel that the bobbing heads in Hollywood rejected. Apparently, they didn't think Schrader's film had a very strong horror aspect to it, and so it was that this original version of the prequel was buried while a new director came in and made a completely different movie using most but not all of the original actors. For the life of me, I can't figure out what the stuffed shirts in Hollywood were thinking, as I find Dominion to be clearly superior to Exorcist: The Beginning - even when it comes to the horror aspects.

Certainly, in terms of relating Father Merrin's story to the events chronicled in The Exorcist, Dominion is a much stronger film. Exorcist: The Prequel pretty much mucked up the whole Father Merrin story, in my opinion, particularly with his relationship with the female doctor at the camp site in East Africa. Dominion also deals much more forcibly with the guilt that drove Merrin away from the priesthood and all but destroyed his faith; in fact, that life-changing episode plays an integral part in the final showdown between priest and demon. And while we're talking about the demon, he's a much more forcible, impressive presence here than in the other prequel. As for the final confrontation, it may not have the supposed "scares" of Harlin's version, but it is a much more palpable, personal confrontation that frames the remainder of Father Merrin's life (culminating, of course, in The Exorcist).

The basic storyline is the same in both sequels, so Exorcist fans should definitely watch both films and make up their own minds as to which is better. I just think Dominion is a tighter, more substantial, better paced film than Exorcist: The Beginning. In Harlin's film, it seemed like we spent interminable hours pacing around in the dark shadows of the hospital. And it's not like Dominion doesn't have any frightening scenes to show you; the demon is much more impressive, the ritual murder inside the church is a clear win for Dominion, and even the human-inspired murders seem more visceral to my eyes. As far as I'm concerned, Paul Schrader's Dominion is the true prequel to The Exorcist.
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on June 21, 2006
I can see why Warner Brothers rejected this turkey when they saw it, not that the version they did release as EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING was any better. What's hard to believe is that this is the work of Paul Schrader, the same man who wrote the screenplay for TAXI DRIVER and created the marvellous AFFLICTION. Here, his only directorial technique seems to consist of, for some reason, showing everybody's feet. The actors seem dazed, the demon boy is more irritating than scary, and even scenes involving Nazis and soul-shattering choices carry little impact. Established Hollywood directors seem to think they are on vacation when they do horror films, as if digging into the depths of people's psyches is easy work. William Friedkin did not take this approach with the original THE EXORCIST, and that is why his film is a masterpiece. Friedkin made a disturbing examination of the nature of evil which still has an impact today. Schrader's film, which does not even deserve to be mentioned along with the original, seems to say that the worst aspect of the Devil is that he does not feel Catholic guilt. Skip this one, and get the Friedkin original (and not the bloated and pompous William Peter Blatty "version you've never seen") if you can. The 1973 film still packs a punch in the jaded new millennium.
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on November 2, 2005
Intersting situation.... 2 movies get made, tell the same story!! The Exorcist prequel went through many, many changes: scripts, actors, directors, studios..all that. Dominoin is a different VERSION of Exorcist the Beginning. It is actually the better one: too bad this one got shelved and 'Beginning' didn't. But make sure you watch both to see the differences. An interesting perspective indeed.
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