Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist is clearly the definitive Exorcist prequel. Unfortunately, a horror movie as terrible as Exorcist: The Beginning makes Dominion seem way better than it actually is. The Paul Schrader directed Prequel to the Exorcist may have been released one year later, but it was actually the first movie filmed. The terrible reception of The Beginning encouraged the studio to complete the version they had no faith in. Dominion is much more subtle with a psychological feel that doesn’t rely on obnoxious editing, horror filters, vulgar profanity, and gratuitously grotesque imagery.
Some of those bloody moments are still present, but it’s clear that overt terror wasn’t their intention. As a Christian, the struggle between the pegan villagers and Christian missionaries is about the extent of how uncomfortable I was watching it. The World War II scene is much more logically placed in full at the beginning of the movie. Making Father Lankester Merrin’s crisis of faith feel less arbitrary. Stellan Skarsgård is one of only a few actors who appear in both versions of the prequel.
This version of young missionary Father Francis is given a far bigger role in Merrin’s journey. The love interest is different with a smaller role and even the possessed victim is completely changed to a disabled local boy. The African location is different, the conflict between the British Army and villagers is given more attention, and the final exorcism is almost casual in its portrayal. At least there aren’t any cheap callbacks to the original. Aside from Pazuzu’s face flashing on screen in a cheesy way. Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist is still a bad movie, but at least it’s more competently made.
Followed by: The Exorcist