|Submitted by Darren DeBari |
(Dec 14, 2005)
Stellan Skarsgård has always been a strong actor. He's been an obsessed submarine commander in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, a brilliant and understanding proffesor in GOOD WILL HUNTING, and the murderous and deceitful Gregor in RONIN. Casting him as a young Father Lankaster Merrin in DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST is not only fitting but adds another great performance to this talented actor's repertoire.
Paul Schrader not only knew this but had to fight to get this version seen. It had a limited run in the theaters but now happilly gets its due on DVD. After watching it you will not believe this film was scrapped by the studio and reshot by Renny Harlin as THE EXORCIST IV: THE BEGINNING.
Harlin's version, which was pretty much ninety-five percent reshot and completely eliminated the fascinating and tormented character of Cheche, was bloody and disgustingly in your face. Schrader's version in comparison is a more thought provoking meditation on evil and how it can harm and disable us. It was deemed "too cerebral" by the studio and yet it's a lot more horrifying and much more emotional.
Just observe the opening of DOMINION and you'll know you're watching a far superior movie. We see Father Merrin forced into a gut wrenching decision no one should ever be forced to make. This terrifying opening in World War II sets the uneasy and frightening tone of the film as we fully understand Merrin turning away from the priesthood and contemplating the presence of God in this world. For what kind of God would have forced him into such a diabolical ultimatum as to choose who would live and who would die by the hands of a sadistic Nazi officer? Is God out there and if he is it seems he's losing the battle?
Merrin is soon led to an excavation where he discovers a mysterious church. The doctor there, played completely unconvincingly by Clara Bellar, was also a victim of World War II and we can see in Merrin's eyes the reopening of old wounds. Also at the excavation is Gabriel Mann's Father Francis. He is played quite well and not only represents Merrin's conscience but the danger of religion imposed upon another culture.
Along the way Merrin finds himself in a similar dilemma as World War II when the neighboring tribe is being threatened by British soldiers. He also discovers the miraculous healing of the deformed and abused Cheche, played chillingly by Billy Crawford. Cheche's new and beautiful healing leads to what ultimately becomes Merrin's first confrontation with Lucifer and his first Exorcism.
Despite the lame computer graphic hyenas and two other bad visuals this is the psychological horror film to see. See it especially if you are a fan of the original. In spirit it's a lot closer to THE EXORCIST than any of it's sequels and that's pretty scary. Almost as scary as the studio yanking this superior version and giving THE EXORCIST IV:THE BEGINNING the wider release. Trust me when I say DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST will beat the devil and endure.