Having just watched the criminally underrated Patty Hearst (1988), Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) was a tremendous disappointment. Of course, this isn’t entirely Paul Schrader’s fault. Dominion suffers mostly because of severe studio meddling; rendering the film as a kind of Dune project in Schrader’s oeuvre. Dominion was, however, successful in replacing Light Of Day (1987) as my least favorite of Schrader’s films.
Schrader is actually really great at conjuring unique images and fantasies; beyond even Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters (1985). Patty Hearst and Cat People (1982) both feature amazing set pieces. So it isn’t surprising that the best moments of Dominion recall the visual tactics of these three earlier films. In Dominion these moments come to us as dream sequences of a man with a bandaged face. An echo of Bogart in Dark Passage (1947) which speaks to Schrader’s continued interest in mining the expressionism of American film noir. The fault here lies in the fact that Dominion, even though the material begs for this aesthetic treatment, only makes use of such sequences briefly a total of three times.
For the most part Dominion is melodrama bogged down by trying to address the legacies of WWII and African Colonialism; two concepts that hamper what should be a character study first and foremost. But at least Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist attempts to open up the franchise and do something slightly different from the rest of the franchise.