So, Paul Schrader completed his Exorcist movie. The studio did not like it. They hired Renny Harlan to make a whole new movie. It bombed. To try and recoup their losses, they released Paul Schrader’s film shortly after the Exorcist: the Beginning hit DVD.
So…uh…what did we get?
Well, the basic concept is the same as what we got from Renny Harlin’s film. There is a church discovered in Kenya where one should not be (in other words, it pre-dates the recorded arrival of Christianity in the region). Father Merrin, suffering a crisis of faith after a traumatic experience in World War II is the lead archeologist.
He finds himself facing off against a great evil that he will one day face again in the future. But this is pretty much where the similarity ends. There is no twist here as Merrin finds a young man with several physical deformities. The young man turns out to be more than they thought as Merrin and his friends attempt to save the boy and maybe even correct his weakened condition.
Dominion is definitely more thoughtful and nuanced, saving much of it’s special effects for the big exorcism battle between Merrin and the possessed young man. the film focuses heavily on the tension between the African locals and the occupying colonizing forces overseeing the excavation of the church. The film is pretty careful to avoid presenting the tribesmen as savages. They are certainly seen as superstitious, but not without reason. They believe the church houses evil, and the film certainly does not deny that. Merrin deals with tragedies within the small community of more westernized and Christian Kenyans.
There is a bit during the exorcism in which it is suggested the demonic has infected the entire region with the exploding conflicts between the military forces, the tribe of the region and the small modernized village.
The film has some more gruesome moments, and the exorcism is a bit of a spectacle. But the film is hurt by some rather weak digital effects (the digital animals look downright awful).
While Schrader clearly was going for something more thoughtful (and generally succeeds) the film is nowhere near as powerful as the first and third entries in the franchise. Dominion is significantly better than the Exorcist: the Beginning It is, however, not a great film, and the franchise closes with a bit of a whimper.