Hollywood is littered with stories of aborted attempts at moviemaking, with many directors finding themselves unceremoniously ousted from a project when a studio gets cold feet and rejects their work. Writer-director Paul Schrader (AUTO FOCUS) found himself in this position when he completed filming on a prequel to 1973's THE EXORCIST in 2004. With Renny Harlin replacing Schrader in the director's chair, then reshooting the movie in its entirety, it seemed Schrader's vision would be forever shelved alongside countless other terminated projects. However, 2005 saw a remarkable turn of events, as Warner Bros allowed Schrader's version of the film to be released under the name DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST.
Like Harlin's film, Stellan Skarsgard plays a young Father Lankester Merrin. Traveling to East Africa, Merrin hopes to forget the horrific events of World War II, and repair his tattered beliefs, which have significantly lapsed following the gruesome battles he unfortunately witnessed. Once there, the dejected priest runs into a team of archaeologists, who are unearthing a buried church which appears to have been concealed under the African landscape for several centuries. As Merrin helps the team with their discoveries, some brutal and bloody events break out, leading to his first encounter with the powerful demon who would return to haunt him in the original EXORCIST movie. While the plot is essentially the same as Harlin's film, Schrader's movie eschews Grand Guignol-esque gore, choosing to build up a dark, creepy atmosphere instead. Fans looking for gross-out delights will find themselves better-served by Harlin's version of events, but for anyone looking for a subtle counterpoint to the brutal butchery and violent profanity of the other films in the series, look no further than DOMINION.