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The Prequel to The Exorcist

Starring Stellan Skarsgård, Gabriel Mann, Clara Bellar and Introducing Billy Crawford
Screenplay by William Wisher and Caleb Carr
based upon the film The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Directed by Paul Schrader

IN SHORT: zzz. [Rated R for strong violence and disturbing images. 117 minutes]

We thank the Suits that Be for nixing the overkill inclusion of obscenities and pea soup that filled The Exorcist, a film which either scared you or made you laugh hysterically (we've explained that elsewhere). The bigger problem is that Paul Schrader's Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist also forgot that, ultimately, any film havnig The Exorcist in its title is supposed to scare you. This film tries to run the "supernatural horror buried deep inside of reality" route, which offers a promising start and then flops about for the next two hours like a dying fish.

What the film does do correctly, on the other hand, is discard any need for references to the original film. Buried in the original was a throwaway line about Father Lankester Merrin (now played by Stellan Skarsgård) first battling Satan -- or the possessive evil spirit, whatever you'd prefer -- in Africa just after World War II. This film begins in war torn Holland, 1944, and then scoots three years to an archeological dig in Kenya. Father Merrin, who has pretty much lost faith because of his war experience, is joined by enthusiastic newbie priest Father Francis (Gabriel Mann). Also in that location, filling out the supporting cast are concentration camp survivor Doctor Rachel Lesno (Clara Bellar), a local interpreter/RC convert named Jomo (Israel Aduramo) and a contingent of Brit soldiers. There's a word for the attitude of Brit Major Granville (Julian Wadham) -- imperialist comes close enough -- though the Sergeant Major (Ralph Brown) is typical of the "clean up his superior's messes" sub-commander that is required in many films featuring the military.

Most of the film concentrates on a local outcast, a crippled boy named Cheche (Billy Crawford). When Merrin's dig uncovers and opens what was a sealed, ancient church, Ancient Evil is released. It is a very slow build to get to that point and, though it would have been nice to get to a possession and exorcism shortly thereafter, that is not to be. No, first there must be Signs. Then there must be Miracles. Then a Veil of Deception must be lifted and, fuhgeddaboutit folks. Dominion moves like sludge. It is tedious. It isn't even close to scary. It sure doesn't offer much when a falling (as opposed to Fallen) priest can't be tempted by the one female face for miles around. Sure, we know all about vows and how it's important to keep the religious rules in check for the big throw down. We were so bored waiting for that throw down., a little temptation would have made for a nice diversion.

No, it's not as if they don't have tea. It doesn't kick this tepid thriller into any kind of direction. The only interesting diversion comes from a pair of unnamed soldiers (Niall Refoy and Lorenzo Camporese) who, tempted by the riches believed to within to tomb, have a much more interesting fate to deal with, which you don't have to think much to figure out from our sparse description. Our interest peaked with this subplot and what follows for about five or ten minutes. The rest of Dominion failed to do anything close.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dominion: The Prequel to The Exorcist, he would have paid . . .


Those who over intellectualize the themes of horror flicks in their film school seminars will have a most wonderful time. That includes almost no one we know.

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