Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist vs. Exorcist: The Beginning

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I've seen both versions of EXORCIST 4: Paul Schrader's original cut (DOMINION as it is called on video), and the expensive Renny Harlin version, reshot almost from scratch with some footage from the Schrader version used (released in theaters as EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING). I forget all the differences, but finding Harlin's theatrical version quite lacking, was eager to see Schrader's cut, which was supposedly "too cerebral", and lacking in gore and thrills. Unfortunately, the Schrader cut also sucks, and if I had to chose between these two films, Harlin's was more polished and less boring. Schrader threw in a few interesting ideas, but his directorial skills never seem to match his ambitious screenwriting.

Dominion has two themes, (a) the loss and retention of faith amid trials with impossible choices where evil seems to triumph, and (b) the process of demonic oppression, not just possession. Harlin's "Exorcist: The Beginning", meanwhile, is chock full of needless and senseless gore, which is unpleasant, but more tedious than unsettling. And then the ending of the film, the big reveal of the villain, is obviously an attempt to tie the film to the original, despite the reveal making no sense otherwise. In Schrader's version, the scenario is consistent with what Fr. Gabriele Amorth has said about possession, namely that it is usual subtle, and does not often reveal itself in sensational ways. The final struggle at the end of the film is more about the spiritual struggle than the shock effects. The difference between the two films can even be seen in the poster art, Harlin's version with an upside down cross, while Schrader's version has a priest kissing the cross. "Dominion" I found to be edifying, "Exorcist: The Beginning" most definitely is NOT edifying.

They were both terrible, Dominion wins by a mere margin