(kr) wrote: Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist is a rather strange horror flick with a troubled production history and a diverse range of reactions towards it - though critics and audiences were largely negative toward it.Many decry the film as poorly written, poorly directed, boring, unscary, and cheap-looking (Which is thanks to the CGI, which does look pretty damn awful at times). But as negative as most of the response to the film is, its small cult following absolutely raves about it. They literally go bonkers over this film to the point of absurdity. On the DVD cover, it has an absolutely glowing quote from late film critic, Roger Ebert, in which he says in the first part of the quote, "A milestone in movie history" (Whoa, whoa, whoa! We're talking about Dominion, here, not The Exorcist, Mr. Ebert!). Others call it, "a thinking man's horror film," which is also rather absurd to say. Critic Peter Sobczynski's glowing 5/5 review called it, "One of the best American horror films in years." Author/screenwriter of The Exorcist even called it, "A handsome, classy, elegant piece of work," which is in stark contrast to the immense vitriol he spewed towards Exorcist II: The Heretic and fellow prequel, Exorcist: The Beginning. I even remember coming across a blog post review of the film in which the writer stated that he found The Exorcist and most of the other entries to be "boring" and "overrated", but absolutely glowed with praise towards Dominion.As you can see, this entry of the series in particular seems to inspire very rabid debates about why it it is or isn't a good horror film. Many decry it as terrible, while others pull the "thinking man's film" excuse to belittle those who hate it. So, as critical as I have been in particular to the positive response to the film, you're probably wondering why in the hell I gave it a very positive 4/5 score, aren't you?Well, even with all its undeniable flaws, I still found Dominion to be a compelling, well acted, intriguing, creepy, and fascinating horror flick. It's certainly not perfect, nor is a masterpiece, or God help me, "A milestone in movie history," but I do think that is a very underrated horror flick that's worth watching at least once. Perhaps one reason I enjoy this film so much is my inner snobby bastard who is so fond of art house films, and as this film carries a strong, artsy vibe to it that is more intent on slow-building tension and character development, maybe those are among the reasons for why I enjoy it so much. So, let my try and explain why I enjoy yet ANOTHER reviled horror film.The film opens in a European village during World War II which is being paid an unpleasant visit by a Nazi army after a Nazi soldier was found murdered. The SS commander demands to know who among the villagers committed the crime, but no one confesses.So, he turns to the parish priest, Father Lankester Merrin for answers, since surely someone must have confessed to the murder during a confession to him. Father Merrin insists that no one in the village committed the murder, but the SS commander doesn't believe him.So, as a form of twisted retribution for the crime, Father Merrin is forced to select a certain number of villagers to be shot by the soldiers, or else the whole village will be massacred. Having no other choice after seeing they're serious by killing a few villagers indiscriminately, he makes the painful selection process.Years later, in 1947, Merrin is no longer a priest, pending a hearing from the Vatican and mostly works as an archaeologist who has lost his faith and is tormented by the guilt of his actions during the war, trying his best to escape from them.He is approached by British forces to help excavate a bizarre discovery in Kenya, in which a Christian church was found buried. But, what makes it so odd is that it is determined that the church's construction is estimated to have taken place centuries before Christianity even reached the area.At first, Merrin is hesitant, especially knowing that a young priest, Father Francis, is being sent by the Vatican to oversee the excavation and doesn't want to get involved with a project involving both the military and the Vatican, but is intrigued by the potential findings at the dig site.Upon excavating things seem off about not only the excavation site, but also the nearby village. One workman suddenly suffers a seizure during the dig, there's a deformed boy wandering around named Cheche who is shunned by the villagers because they believe him to be cursed, hyenas are inexplicably eaten by - brace yourselves - a herd of cattle, and other happenings occur which makes the villagers believe the site is cursed.The church itself is also an oddity after it is determined that it was buried shortly after its construction. And an exploration into the church finds that the angel statues inside are not only holding weapons, but are also pointing them downward as if to keep something at bay. Not only that, but there seems to be an underground chamber that seems to have been used for sacrifices and is filled with all sorts of demonic imagery.During the excavation and odd happenings, Merrin comes across Cheche again after he finds him taking shelter from the rain after a beating from the villagers and takes him in to be treated by the nurse. At first, the situation with him seems hopeless since an arm injury has the strong possibility of resulting in amputation, while his leg needs an operation. But after some treatments, during which a frightening occurrence happens in the village when the chief's wife births a stillborn baby covered in maggots, Cheche seems to recover miraculously and quickly.But despite this happy event, things only get worse for the excavators, villagers, and the British military as bodies start to pile up and more frightening events take place, resulting in building tension between the British and villagers as everyone seems to be going mad. Merrin himself can't avoid these either, as he is haunted by recurring memories of that day during the war, as well as a frightening dream in which he sees inexplicable demonic imagery.Soon, Merrin can no longer explain away the evil that is overtaking everyone, as the series of events forces him to confront his past, his inner demons, and his faith that he must stand bravely in the face of to save not only himself, but everyone around him before it overtakes them completely.The storyline is similar to The Beginning in both good and bad ways, as well as different in both good and bad ways. It's not without its goofy moments (Cattle eating hyenas, the sudden appearance of the Northern Lights when *SPOILER ALERT* the evil begins to take over everyone when he confronts the demon), some things aren't explained well (This film also features a nurse who has a past with the Holocaust, but she isn't developed nearly as well), and some other flaws are indeed present that will leave you scratching your head at certain points.In spite of these flaws, I still found this film to be an interesting, character-driven, psychological horror film. In this prequel, I felt that the character development of Merrin was done better, as it explored his troubled past more effectively, as well as his disillusionment and overall nature of his faith as a whole, as he is forced to confront the frightening supernatural evil.I also liked this version's Vatican priest more, as it gave him much more development and even made him a lot more likable, but also gave him flaws like being naive, but wanting so much to do good in the village.Plus, this version's demon is a lot scarier and more menacing, especially in how it seemed to be a true personification of evil and its unpredictable nature in exploiting human weaknesses. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the demon in the other prequel, but this one was better and dare I say, more convincing.I also liked how this film explored various themes like human nature, faith, redemption, sins, past demons, and a lot of other topics, which I felt for the most part, the story explored rather effectively.The acting of this entry is also quite good, though I also enjoyed the acting of The Beginning as well. Stellan Skarsgard gives an excellent performance as Merrin, much like the other prequel, which is something I think that both fans and detractors alike can agree upon. He was very convincing as the troubled ex-priest as he is haunted by his past and confronts the evil around him.I also have to give credit to actors Gabriel Mann as the likable, naive Father Francis and Billy Crawford as the enigmatic Cheche as he could convey shyness, vulnerability, and mystery, but also proved to be rather frightening, too.As far as entertainment goes, I found it to be a creepy, slow-building, chilling, character-driven sort of film. Admittedly, it took my a couple viewings to really get into the film, but once I did, I was engaged from beginning to end, even during the moments where the story becomes sloppy and stumbles over itself. I wanted to know more and I was eager to explore the characters and the atmospheric setting to uncover the nature of the evil plaguing the area.Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist is no masterpiece and no classic. I don't blame anyone who hates it, but I can also see why there are people who go nuts over it. I enjoy it and think that it is viewing at least once if you enjoy supernatural horror flicks, just form your own thoughts about it. I think that is quite underrated.