Thursday, October 31, 2013

DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST (2005)

It's been a fun Halloween month, but now we must pick up the circus peanut or Jack Chick tract at the top of our treat bag.

SYNOPSIS: The hilariously long-winded title offers a glimpse of what to expect from Paul Schrader's attempt at a Young Father Merrin adventure.  Generally, this follows a similar storyline path as EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, although we get the addition of a homely crippled boy and the subtraction of heaving, lavish gore.  It's been a long month, let's get to...

WHAT WORKED:
Schrader's version forgoes the bloodletting of the Renny Harlin prequel in favor of a way more contemplative and philosophical approach.  Evil in DOMINION is mostly present in the clash of cultures, beginning with the Merrin/Nazi scenes.  Again, these scenes are plenty potent and set the stage for one of the film's major themes.


They're paralleled in the conflicts between native African bros and British military jerkoffs, which has offended some IMDB posters, who don't like British people being compared to Nazis.  But unless you think that Germans have some special deficiency that makes them hyperprone to evil (I would hear your evidence), it's probably best to assume that any people, or any persons or party, could go Nazi-esque until the right circumstances.  


Fucking DOMINION even tells you this, very clearly, in the scenes in which a freaked-out tribesman spears up a school, to prevent "Christian evil" from spreading.


This is a pretty good film on a visual level and Schrader generates some impressive images, with exceptions which we'll get to.  Conceptually, I liked a lot of the more hallucinatory scenes, even if the execution was a little iffy at times.




WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
Admittedly, some of the effects look like rush jobs or unfinished work.  We don't get as much hyena flesh-ripping action in this more understated prequel, but what's here looks crummy.  Do you think CGI would more tolerated if its history had gone in reverse?  Like if we started with these hyenas, then eventually got to JURASSIC PARK over a swathe of time, CGI would be less of a dirty word to moviegoers in general?


Granted, the Harlin film is not as heady as this, but I prefer it as a viewing experience.  The problem with DOMINION is not that it's ambitious, it's that it's so low-key and uninvolved with its various ambitious plotlines that it never really draws you in as a viewer.  If I had to pick one scene that represents this whole film, it would be the freshly-possessed kid punching a priest through the air into a statue, all of it filmed in slow-mo with no discernible music.  It's a clearly incredible event that is treated like "Ehh, let's film this and move on to more talking".  I also hate the kid.  Surprise.


This PATRICK/BURIAL GROUND dwarf mashup unfortunately gets a ton of screen time and enough lines to fill an Apocrypha.  It doesn't help when he adopts his coquetteish, sexy form.


And then we're back to ugh effects.  This would have probably been better received under any title other than EXORCIST, since the evil here doesn't really manifest itself in a physical, conventional, EXORCISTy way until the end and then it's like this:


So, my expectations of the two prequels were both wrong.  The Harlin version was mostly acceptable while the Schrader version was too distant and talky to like.  I think both directors would be pleased that no one would be passionate enough about these films to battle over which movie is superior.  Peace through low expectations!  And now it's time for me and you to peace and enjoy our day of candy and the Black Arts.  Happy Halloween!

RATING: 4

SERIES AVERAGE: 5.6

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