review for Dominion: A Prequel to the Exorcist on AllMovie

Dominion: A Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)
by Jeremy Wheeler review

Paul Schrader finally gets his due with the release of his far superior Exorcist prequel, Dominion. A brooding tale of lost faith that skillfully inverts the horror of William Friedkin's masterpiece, Schrader's cut is a devilish drama that satisfies the need for a serious look into Father Merrin's past. And while producers Morgan Creek were unhappy with the end result, Dominion succeeds simply because it does not fall prey to the stereotypical shocks that littered Renny Harlin's shameless schlock-fest, Exorcist: The Beginning. Both films cover enough familiar ground to make it an interesting case of déjà vu, though there's no denying that Schrader's film is a cut above your average fright flick. Dominion might not have pea-soup pukes, but that's not quite the story it has to tell. The simple idea of a possessed child evolving instead of becoming gruesomely disfigured doesn't quite afford one that much grisly horror, which is why most of the evil in the film comes from Schrader's knack for human frailty and not silly CG hyenas or Linda Blair knock-offs. The look of the film is superb, with the great Vittorio Storaro coming out of retirement to deliver a pic glowing in the warm African sun and near operatic at the end. Through it all, Stellan Skarsgård grounds the production with a solid performance made even better by the fine appearance by Gabriel Mann as Father Francis. Sadly, the picture is hindered by some spotty moments of effects that don't quite make the tale as timeless as it should be.