Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
dominion: prequel to the exorcist | dominion | prequel | paul schrader | william wisher jr. | caleb carr | stellan skarsgard | gabriel mann | clara bellar | drama | thriller | united states | demon | possession | possessed | history | exorcism | ritual | the exorcist
Film: Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
Director: Paul Schrader
Writer: William Wisher Jr. and Caleb Carr
Starring: Stellan Skarsgård, Gabriel Mann and Clara Bellar
This film begins at the end of World War II in Holland. We have a priest played by Stellan Skarsgård. One of the Nazi soldiers in the town has been murdered and the head of the unit asks Skarsgård who committed it, the commander played by Antonie Kamerling. He tells him that no one in this town could have done it. To show them the Nazis are not going to stand for this, they decide to make a point that they are going to kill ten citizens. Skarsgård is commanded to choose who will be executed, but refuses. Someone is shot and all of the citizens will be killed, but Skarsgård changes his mind. He starts to point out who will be killed.
We then shift a few years into the future and are on the British edge of territories. A church has been discovered in a remote village. Skarsgård is on a sabbatical and is having issues with his faith. He is going to check out this discovered church. He first has to gain permission from the major, who is played by Julian Wadham. In the meeting is a priest sent by the Vatican, he is played by Gabriel Mann. There is issue with a priest having faith issues so Mann will come along to the village.
Escorting them to the village is an interpreter, played by Andrew French. They arrive to find that there is a make shift hospital ran by Clara Bellar. The two priests will stay at the local hotel ran by Eddie Osei. Mann has decided that he will do missionary work and will open up a school. Osei who is a Christian already, will have his two sons be his first two students.
During their travels to the village and to the excavation site, we see that Skarsgård has been changed by what happened to him in Holland where he questions his faith and believes that man commits evil, not the devil or God. Mann is bothered by the pagan beliefs of the natives around here when he sees them preparing a cow for sacrifice.
As the church becomes unburied, we see that there is something odd about it. It looks to date to a time before Christianity was in these parts with its architecture. The stones do not have any sign of weathering, which tells them that it was built and then covered up almost immediately.
That day we also get a scene where Skarsgård sees a pack of hyenas, but they are scared off by the gun of Osei. We also get a glimpse of a crippled boy that is thought to be cursed by the villagers. They are mean to him and the boy fends for himself in the wilderness. He is played by Billy Crawford.
Bellar opens up to Skarsgård and he notices that she is Jewish. She has the numbers on her arm showing that she was kept in a concentration camp during the war. She tells him a little bit about it. She seems to have done something during it that she isn’t proud of, but she still thinks that people are inherently good. She tries to get Skarsgård to open up to her, but he doesn’t seem ready to.
There is a night of a rainstorm and Skarsgård finds Crawford sleeping outside. He has open sores on his body, so he picks him up and takes him to the hospital. Bellar tells him she can clean out of the wounds. His right arm is unable to be helped as it is pretty much dead. His leg though has been broken and healed incorrectly. She thinks with a surgeon could re-break it and fix this. He agrees to reach out to one to help.
The crews clean the dirt and are able to enter the church. It is peculiar, because it is not a church that is celebrating God, but the archangel Micheal. There are scenes of the battle of angels and it is not a place of worship. Normally they would be looking toward the heavens, instead they are looking down. There is a cave below with a statue of a demon. It is thought that the church was built to keep it down there. Gemstones and other lavish things ordain a lot of the crosses and things inside this church.
Mann wants to call in Wadham and more soldiers so the British know it was found. Skarsgård is leery for fear the church will be looted. Mann begs that they use the soldiers to protect the church though. He reluctantly agrees.
Weird things start to happen in the village though. Soldiers come and Ralph Brown is put in charge of protecting the church. The tensions are running high and even the doctor who comes to help Crawford feels it. There are two soldiers who are murdered while trying to steal from it, but Wadham will not believe that they did it to themselves, by the way they were found. He kills a young African woman and this makes the villagers fear Christianity. They are preparing for war. There is also a scene where cows have killed the hyenas and are eating them.
During this Mann notices there is a change in Crawford. His arm has healed and his leg is healing fast. He believes it is a sign of God, but soon suspects it is a sign of possession by the Devil. No one else has seen this or believes it. Can Mann prove it before it is too late? Is Crawford really possessed or is it in Mann’s mind? Will Skarsgård find his faith? Can the tension be alleviated before it is too late?
This is an interesting film. This is one of two versions of the same film. This one was filmed first, but after the second version was given a wide release and didn’t do well in the box office, this film was then released. They both cover the same subject matter and are almost two completely different films. I first want to talk about Skarsgård, because he is great in this film. He is one of my favorite actors of all time which is weird, because he doesn’t give a lot of emotion in his roles. This role is great to me though, because having grown up watching the Exorcist, it is interesting to see the exorcism that was done by the character before that film. I love seeing Skarsgård’s struggle with his religion, especially as a priest, because I have personally had crisis with faith as well.
I also want to say that I think the rest of the cast does well in the supporting role in this film. The story is interesting as this film is a prequel to one of the great horror films of all time, so it has certain lines it has to follow. We are also seeing the demon that possesses the girl in that film long before she is born. This film does not play on that storyline all that much though. I still like that it is done at least subtlety. It is interesting as well that this film doesn’t go for the cheap scares, but much more about the atmosphere of the village, the tension and extremes of people as well as religion.
This film was hurt for me by the lack of budget as the use of computers to generate the hyenas and the demon face on Crawford do look fake. There are also issues with the audio being inconsistent, which I found out was due to this as well. I would have liked to seen this film given the same treatment as the other version as I feel if you are going to release both. I happen to like both versions as it is fun to compare the two, so that is why I’m disappointed this one was hindered due to money.
Now with that said, this film has big expectations at least for me due to being a prequel that fills in the back-story for a classic like The Exorcist. The acting in this film is good. This one is more psychological, not going for as many cheap scares, but exploring faith and humanity by looking at it in the most horrible extremes. This one does not have as big or as scary climax as the other version, but I will still give this a viewing. If possible, I recommend watching both to compare and contrast as well. I will say that I feel the other version was still better for me.
My Rating: 6 out of 10