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Director Paul Schrader shot Dominion only to find studio bosses underwhelmed by its horror aspects, at which point Renny Harlin was hired to direct another take on the subject with the same lead actor, setting, and similar storyline. That became the 2004 theatrical release Exorcist: The Beginning. As expected, the Schrader version has more tortured religiosity and visual poetry than Harlin's cheesier (but admittedly gripping) re-do. Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) carries his guilt from the Nazi occupation to a remote African archaeological dig, where a mysteriously buried church has been uncovered. Strange stuff happens nearby, and a fervent young priest (good performance by Gabriel Mann) parries spiritual points with the now-doubting Merrin. Some of the ideas are strong and the sun-and-sand cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro is often stunning. As beautiful as the film is to look at, it must be admitted that the climax is disappointingly flat, the leading lady (Clara Bellar) is a washout, and one begins to yearn for the occasional genre shock of the kind Schrader was able to conjure up in his remake of Cat People. If you're an Exorcist fan, watch it for its serious treatment of Merrin's crisis, which ties in to his character in the 1973 original.

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WA73606 Dominion-Prequel to the Exorcist DVD (2005/Stellan Skaarsgard) $14.97 $12.49