ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Paul Schrader

Starring:
Stellan Skarsgård/Father Merrin
Gabriel Mann/Father Francis
Clara Bellar/Rachel Lesno
Billy Crawford/Cheche
PLOT-CRUNCH
Father Merrin (Skarsgård) loses his faith in the big dude upstairs after a traumatizing event during World War 2. Years later, he finds the devil through an archaeological dig in East Africa. You do the arithmetic on that one!
THE LOWDOWN

God isn't here today – Kessel

Sometimes the shite that happens in the film industry blows my minute mind. Dominion’s twisty-curvy trek to the public is one of those things. So let me get this straight; Morgan Creek approved a character driven script and then hired a director who is known for intimate character based films. He shot the script they permitted, finished the film and then they canned it to have another version of the film shot (Exorcist The Beginning that is) because it lacked horror and action. Am I the only one that finds that to be utterly imbecile behavior? I mean you read the script beforehand, right? You knew of the director's past work, right? How freaking thick can people be? I’ll leave it at that; off to the actual film!

After the tacky, heavy handed cheese sandwich that was Renny Harlin’s re-shot cut of Exorcist 4, I was looking forward to seeing the Paul Schrader version more than ever. Now that I’ve witnessed it; I am mostly fulfilled as an Exorcist fan. This is the picture that should’ve hit the big screens if you ask me or my imaginary friend...an Ebonics spitting Chiwawa named Chili. Exorcist Dominion wasn’t a balls to the walls horrorthon, nor was it a fast paced “bodies hit the floor” Keg Party. And that was okay, it was never meant to be one. What it did put out though was a compelling character study having to do with one’s man bumpy road from giving up on God, to carrying weighty guilt with him and to finally finding God again. As played by the intense Stellan Skarsgård and well backed by solid "on paper" characterization; Father Merrin’s journey was a captivating one. One that gave justice to the Merrin we would eventually meet in the original The Exorcist (as played by the great Max Von Sydow) and one that acted as the core of this film. I personally couldn't get enough of the lad where I was absorbed and touched by his journey. Without that working me, the film wouldn't have failed.

The film's approach to the “evil” at hand was a fascinating one as well. There was a supernatural force at play here no doubt, but the way I saw it; it only capitalized on the evil that folks already had within them; in a way they always had a choice to do wrong or good. That angle fascinated me in the sense that it pretty much gelled with my own take on life. Having been brought up Catholic; I was thought that the good that happened was God’s work and that the bad was the Devil’s doing. Basically; nothing was ever my fault. I have since adopted the philosophy that for better and for worse we are fully responsible for our actions and their result. It's up to us. I was hooked by the film’s play on that theme. It was a brave move, one that only Schrader could’ve communicated in such a layered fashion. Add to all that; in depth theological discussions that made me reflect upon my own beliefs, engaging plot turns, awe inspiring setting/set designs (That underground church…brrr), a brilliant rendition of "the Devil" in physical form and a handful of powerful/eerie moments (What a visceral opening!) and you get an effective piece of celluloid that accomplished what it set out to do.

Which brings me to my peeves; it should’ve aimed to do more than what it did. Being that this is an Exorcist sequel, some suspense/scares would’ve been needed to spice things up and live up to the name. Schrader was obviously solely interested in the “deep stuff”; hence ignoring the horror possibilities. For example; the film had a wonderful concept where the “possessed being” was healing as the world around him deteriorated. I would’ve boogied more if that angle had been milked for all it was worth. It could’ve made the film so much fuller. Then there was the symbolic, artsy dream sequences that Merrin had which left me in the dust with no umbrella (???). Less aloofness would’ve given those dreams and Merrin's plight more weight. And why wasn’t the Merrin/Rachel relationship taken further? There was something strong there but Schrader dropped the ball with it. Lastly, the flick had some mucho crappy CGI in it. Shite the CG Hyenas here were worse than the ones found in Harlin’s version. With that said I don’t blame Schrader for that, I blame Morgan Creek; who obviously chump changed the CG process in Post. If you’re going to do something…do it right or don’t do it at all! SHEESH!

All in all; Dominion was a lusciously shot, evenly paced and thought provoking film. Yes more emphasis on the circumstantial horror of the story would’ve been a welcome addition; but what can you do. Personally, I’ll take this baby for a ride any day before I ever touch Renny Harlin’s Spider-Reagan-Wannabe whore again! The power of JD compels you!

GORE
We get a couple of gooey moments such as bullet hits (one in the head), an opened leg, a maggot infested still born baby, arrow punctures and brains blown out.
ACTING
Stellan Skarsgård (Father Merrin) gave a layered, focused and likable show. Great performance! Gabriel Mann (Father Francis) was on and off; sometimes I really liked him; other times he didn’t sell me and acted too much like Keanu Reeves. Clara Bellar (Rachel) did fine with what she was given. I would’ve liked more on her character though. Billy Crawford (Cheche) was highly efficient in his dual roles. Anthonie Kamerling (Kessel) left quite the impression as the cold hearted Nazi Officer via his charismatic yet cruel show.
T & A
The ladies get Billy Crawford shirtless and we get …NATHING!
DIRECTING
Paul Schrader did what he does best. He didn’t interfere with the storyline via his visuals... he served it. Moreover, he injected the whole with an oppressive mood and a couple of powerful slow motion moments that brought some scenes home with flair.
SOUNDTRACK
The subtle, almost ambient yet chilling score worked wonders for the film!
BOTTOM LINE
Dominion was a visually stunning, in depth, well paced and thought provoking (for me anyway) picture that made up for the debacle that was Renny Harlin’s corny take on it. Granted the film would’ve benefited from more Merrin/Rachel time and heavier emphasis on its horror opportunities but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of it. I mostly dug it for what it was. One thing is for certain though; after Morgan Creek’s imposed tacked on ending on Exorcist 3 and then the Exorcist 4 jumble, it’s obvious that they don’t have a freaking clue as to how to handle the franchise! Hey Mr. Creek! Sell the “The Exorcist“rights to another Studio already! YOU ARE NOT WORTHY!
BULL'S EYE
John Frankenheimer quit the film due to illness and diedone month later.

Liam Neeson was cast as Father Merrin for Frankenheimer's version.

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