Monday, January 02, 2006

Dominion: Prequel to "The Exorcist" (2005)

So Warner shelved this and put out Harlin's Exorcist: The Beginning instead? You've got to be fucking kidding. Granted, this isn't exactly a commercial product (read: it's not wall-to-wall gore), but it certainly does better by the original than Renny's fiasco. It's pretty much everything you'd expect from a Paul Schrader devil-possession flick: light on the effects, thoughtful, sober to the point of overearnestness. Schrader, true to his history, has taken the ideas just below the surface in The Exorcist and brought them to the fore (call it The Last Temptation of Merrin). That the deep spirituality that often manifests in Schrader's work finds its purest outlet here is no surprise; that the tortured ambiguity, rivers of guilt and fumblings towards redemption that also come with Schrader's territory manage to keep the film from Sunday-school territory is refreshing. Altogether a cleaner, stronger and more worthwhile venture than that other prequel, this shares a fair bit of common ground with the Harlin film but manages to do so without being, you know, repulsive. Events that were senseless and exploitative in the previous release are given context so that they feel organic; finally, we have a film rather than an opportunistic shambles. On the downside, the film has a lot of technical problems (maybe because it wasn't quite finished?) -- the pacing is clumsy, the acting is variable (Clara Bellar makes Isabella Scorupco look good, which I didn't think possible) and the FX are... well, the FX are crap. But it's a film that deals seriously with issues that most other films don't even deign to think about, and it comes off pretty well.

Grade: B-


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