USA, 111 min.

director.gif (905 bytes)Paul Schrader


Stellan Skarsgård - Father Lankester Merrin
Gabriel Mann - Father Francis
Clara Bellar - Rachel Lesno
Billy Crawford - Cheche
Andrew French - Chorea
Julian Wadham - Major Granville
Antoine Kamerling - Kessel
Ralph Brown - Sargeant Major
Israel Adurama - Jomo







WORLD PREMIERE: Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Films - March 18, 2005

Read Screen Daily's Review - March 21, 2005

Read Variety's Review - March 21, 2005

Read Ebert's Review - May 19, 2000

"An actor who conveys just the right amount of genuine decency and a world-weary remorse, Skarsgård is ideally cast as Merrin."   ...Hollywood Reporter

"Stellan Skarsgård is solid, as always, as Father Lankester Merrin, who was forced to choose which parishioners would be executed by the Nazis in 1944 Holland, and never quite recovered. In 1947 East Africa, pursuing his post-war vocation in archaeology, he confronts paganism, British imperialism, the guileless Father Francis (Gabriel Mann) and a long-buried Byzantine church, whose purpose seems to be putting a stopper in the bottleneck to hell."    ...Newsday

"Schrader's more thoughtful film sets this up with eloquence and ambience, evolving the tale rather than wrenching it to grisly extremes. An innocent youth is again invaded by a demonic spirit, but this one is almost as vain as vile, crowing "I am perfection." Played with due gravity by Skarsgård, Merrin must defy the demon with exorcism... The screenplay by Caleb Carr and William Wisher Jr. (also credited on Harlin's film) sparks intriguing tugs-of-war between arrogance and conciliation, personal needs and the greater good, the ease of corruption and burdens of faith... Exorcism aside, Dominion is well-acted, handsomely photographed and hauntingly scored by Trevor Rabin and Angelo Badalamenti."
...Houston Chronicle

"Skarsgård is a terrific choice for the younger Merrin. The tall Swede has a strong melancholy presence, as did his countryman Sydow, and he moves like a hod carrier under the weight of his Catholic guilt."  ...NY Daily News

"In a way, Dominion is as much a Last Temptation sequel as an Exorcist prequel: Skarsgård, in a quietly mesmerizing performance, grapples with guilt and resentment on the bumpy road to salvation, and the movie turns on a similar scene in which his destiny is re-imagined. It may not have been what the producers had in mind, but they asked for a Paul Schrader movie, and that's exactly what he delivered."  ...The AV Club

"Only Stellan Skarsgård, in the role of Father Lankester Merrin, seems to be engaged in the proceedings. As a man of faith who witnessed, and blames himself, for an atrocity committed by a Nazi officer during the war, Merrin carries on his shoulders such guilt and shame that their weight seems to make him a foot shorter."  ...East Bay Express

" Skarsgård brings gravitas and pathos to his role as Merrin while Schrader tackles the material in his customary, full-blooded style. Though almost inevitably falling short of Friedkin’s classic 1973 original, this prequel is an intriguing piece of work in its own right and surely deserves its belated chance to try to reach an audience."   ...Screen Daily

"Dominion is occasionally convincing in the scenes concerned with Merrin's possible redemption; the moments that find him grappling with his faith are its only real strong points."   ...The Journal News

"Stellan Skarsgård does a good job playing Father Lankester Merrin, who sees the face of evil and here flashes back to World War II, haunted by actions there that and will follow him through his life, shaking his belief in God and himself... Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist may not make you jump out of your seat, but it acts more like a slow sizzle that burns into your conscience, which can be more disturbing at times."   ...Tahoe Daily Tribune

"There were two strong elements in Harlin’s version and both are just as impressive in Schrader’s approach. The first is the strong, stirring performance by Stellan Skarsgård in the role of Father Merrin. While he was excellent in Harlin’s film–allowing us to genuinely see and feel the torment of the character without lapsing into histrionics–his work here seems even better, perhaps because it fits in more comfortably with the more serious and thoughtful proceedings supplied by Schrader. The other standout element is the gorgeous photography from the legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro."  ...Hollywood Bitchslap

"The interpretation is excellent. Stellan Skarsgård leads the ensemble with subtlety and nuance, and Gabriel Mann is particularly endearing as the young and innocent Father Francis, whose absolute confidence in God contrasts Merrin's lack of faith... Taken as an exploration of the human mind and its
weaknesses, it may not go far enough in its reflection but is nevertheless interesting. A weird mix of genres, Paul Schrader's Original Exorcist Prequel will go down in history as further proof that studios don't like movies that defy categorization."

"Standing on its own, Dominion is indeed too intellectual for today’s modern horror audiences, and would likely not even be considered a horror film at all if it didn’t tie into the original film... Although hired to direct a screenplay written by others, one might expect the man who written or adapted to the screen such films as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Mosquito Coast and The Last Temptation of Christ to spend some time whipping the screenplay into shape... The only things this film has going for it are Skarsgård’s understated acting, Vittorio Storaro’s impeccable cinematography and Schrader’s direction."

"The poor writing is counteracted by two solid dramatic performances by Skarsgård and Gabriel Mann, and in some scenes, they actually are able to rise above the weak material. They both do their best to show the inner struggle that the clergy must face when dealing with things that don't fit into their normal views on religion and faith."

"It's worth noting that Skarsgård's respective performances are significantly different (his air of exhaustion the second time out may not be acting, since he's rarely off screen in either version) and Mann's Father Francis seems touched by a holy madness that bypassed his replacement, James D'Arcy."   ...TV Guide

"It's not hard to see, however, why Dominion was initially shelved, since it is more about Father Lankester Merrin's (Skarsgård in the role played by Max von Sydow in the original) crisis of faith than anything else. Scares and creepy confrontations are definitely secondary in Schrader's treatment, which makes the film a quasi-intellectual exercise that will probably turn off hardcore horror fans... Beautifully shot by the great Vittorio Storaro on Moroccan and Italian locations, Dominion is an interesting attempt by a serious director to make a thinking-man's genre film. Neither a masterpiece nor a failure, it will probably appeal mostly to those with knowledge of its death and miraculous resurrection."  ...Film Journal

"Merrin’s a tricky role – just a little too morose to be hardboiled, he’s a character who could end up being maudlin and dull. Skarsgård skirts the edge of that, giving Merrin a beefy physicality that makes up for his more emotional moping."

" Skarsgård is very good, and his conflict is the most intriguing aspect of the story. He's compelling and I expected some charged dramatic situations that would put Merrin to the test, but they were nowhere to be found after the intro."   ...IGN Insider

"The acting is top notch and Skarsgård is much more subtle and conflicted here than in Beginning where he seems to be far more agitated on screen (probably because he had to redo the damn movie twice). His reasons for losing his faith are incredibly powerful."   ...If Magazine

"You have to give Schrader credit, though, for being more interested in Merrin's interior journey than in loud, cheap gimmicks. His interpretation of the disillusioned priest very much falls in line with the other tormented men Schrader has brought to the screen either as a writer (Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ) or as writer-director (Affliction, Auto Focus)."  ...Augusta Chronicle

Schrader’s film is a slow-paced, character driven, creepy and psychological mood piece that is full of atmosphere but hardly shocking or really scary... The characters in Dominion are fully fleshed out and meaningful to the storyline. Stellan Skarsgård is more affecting and more persuasive with this incarnation of Merrin. He plays him as a man tormented by inner demons, struggling with his faith as opposed to the Swashbuckler hero with a crucifix as in Harlin's version. Father Francis as played by Gabriel Mann comes across as a much engaging character. An optimistic priest, deeply compassionate, spiritual and caring, and a sharp contrast to Skarsgård's troubled and brooding Merrin."   ...The Spinning Image

"Dominion is a much more cerebral film, but that does not mean it isn’t scary. It’s scary in a more internalized, visceral way... It’s absolutely fascinating to be able to weigh the two Father Merrins, each played by Skarsgård but with totally different results... If you look at this movie as though Father Merrin’s experience with Regan McNeil has not happened yet, you cannot fault it. Schrader has done a remarkable job of building up to The Exorcist, as if 1973 really is in the future. It’s a sophisticated spiritual drama that is the appropriate foundation for everything that happens later on in the story."

"Skarsgård maintains his dignity as Father Merrin. He even manages to keep a straight face when cornered by a pack of obviously fake hyenas—now that's acting."

"Father Merrin with Stellan Skarsgård once again smartly cast as the young Max Von Sydow... Spiritually wounded, he's buried himself in archeological work in East Africa."Schrader's version downplays Merrin's moral failings his drinking, for example, and his fondness for the local Red Cross lady. Instead, Schrader has focused on the man's crisis of belief. Although that makes Merrin a far more interesting character (and far closer to the hero of William Peter Blatty's original novel), clearly existential horror wasn't the sort of scare the studio was looking for."   ...Star-Ledger

"As a drama about faith, infused with metaphor and doubt, film achieves moments of real cinematic poetry...  Performances are good to excellent. As Merrin, Skarsgård is in much better, more soulful form here than in the Harlin version, and some of the supporting players who worked on both films get a chance to show off real chops with better material."   ...Variety

"A metaphysical thriller focused more on meditative personal issues than gore and carnage... Stellan Skarsgård slips effortlessly into the younger persona of Max Von Sydow’s Merrin."   ...Long Island Press

"Skarsgård is persuasive in a more interior interpretation of Merrin than he gave in Beginning... Thanks to Dominion's escape from the shelf, the series is going out on a higher note than it might have, even if it’s not as frightening or as completely satisfying as the original’s devotees might hope... It’s an honorable piece of work."  ...Fangoria

"Those looking for a film of some spiritual significance will surely find Schrader's prequel better and more interesting than Harlin's, which went for shocking sensationalism."   ...Christianity Today

"Those looking for a reaffirmation of faith might find a kernel of inspiration in Father Merrin's challenge. But if it's gore you're after, you'd be better off with a return engagement of The Passion of the Christ."   ...Dallas Morning News

"The movie is drenched in atmosphere and dread, as we'd expect from Schrader, but it also has spiritual weight and texture, boldly confronting the possibility that Satan may be active in the world. Instead of cheap thrills, Schrader gives us a frightening vision of a good priest who fears goodness may not be enough....Strange to see Skarsgård in both versions, some shots and dialogue exactly the same, others not."   ...Roger Ebert

"Schrader's film is heavy on philosophical inquiries into the nature of evil (is it a force created by man or God?) and the repetitive nature of history (look at those British officers behave just like SS foot soldiers!), and its mood is one of muted contemplation rather than cacophonic mayhem."   ...Slant Magazine

"Where Father Merrin in Mr. Harlin's movie was a dour adventurer embarked on a desert safari, here he is all grim metaphysical business, glowering in the grip of a spiritual crisis whose resolution will carry him a quarter-century hence to Georgetown (in the person of Max von Sydow) as a formidable ghost buster."    ...NY Times

"Schrader's film is also less bloody and significantly less scary, but more effective at rendering Merrin's metaphysical transformation from doubter to demon fighter."   ...LA Times

"While grappling with his faith, a Roman Catholic priest battles a demon in an East African outpost. The material is right up Schrader's alley, and while his vision of the first Exorcist chapter isn't a masterpiece, it's far superior to the Renny Harlin prequel to The Exorcist released last year."   ...Christian Science Monitor

Read MSNBC (AP) article - May 17, 2005

Read interview with Paul Schrader about the premiere of his film

Read The Hollywood Reporter's article on the Brussels premiere.

Read Entertainment Weekly - April 22, 2005

New Possession: Schrader explains, "Essentially, you have an afflicted boy, an outcast who is possessed, and, as his possession deepens, he gets better until he is perfected and glorified as Lucifer incarnate. A poor crippled boy, getting better - not very useful for hardcore horror, which usually turns on an innocent being tormented, as in the first Exorcist. Here, the concept was turned on its head. I did not want to wrench hard-core horror from it, because the concept really wasn't suitable." 

Schrader talks about his soundtrack - "I was allowed to complete my Exorcist, but only at minimal expense. To put the score together I had to be creative and call up some favors. The music editor and I were able to remix an hour of the Renny Harlin/Trevor Rabin score and adapt it to my film. The Rabin score, however, did not contain a 'theme' cue. For this I turned to Angelo Badalamenti (with whom I've done four films) who provided fifteen minutes of music gratis. The Rabin remix wore thin, particularly during the final twenty minutes of the film. For this I turned to some friends in the heavy metal group Dog Fashion Disco. They scored the last reel and we were able to go back through the film and integrate some of the musical elements. In addition they wrote and performed a song, 'Satan's March,' for the tail credits."

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Visit film page for Renny Harlan's Exorcist: The Beginning

Read Hell Hath No Fury - A story of Hollywood possession