There was a lot of hype going around about the time when these two movies were made. One was put out, the other was not. The Beginning was the original flick, but apparently it wasn’t up to what the producers wanted. So they had Dominion made and put it out. In a bizarre turn of events, they then also released The Beginning.
In a day and age where horror means blood around every corner and creepy little girls with hair in their faces and hollow black eyes, neither of these two movies were received very well.
It’s my opinion that a lot of people these days can’t appreciate the idea of what types of psychological damage movies like The Exorcist can do. Yeah, it’s got some pretty blatant scary shit in it, like Regan’s head turning around, or when she floats. The throat bulging scene is a favorite of mine – not to mention the Spider Walk, which kicks so much ass the first time I saw it I rewound and watched a dozen times before I let the movie continue on it’s way.
But there’s the other stuff too. The stuff that you may not notice, but your brain does. What time the clock stops. Appearances of faces. The fact that this was a normal family and a normal little girl, and she was possessed by a demon.
The Beginning follows in the footsteps of the original film. Setting up the final blows with grace and dignity. You see the creepy little things. You get the little bits of mindfuck in there. And then? And then it makes you wonder if you should ever sleep with the lights out again.
There are themes represented and copied from the original movie, giving you a sense of history. The clocks stop mysteriously on the same numbers. Pazuzu’s head appears, and drives the story as it did the first time around.
You get to see certain characters devolve from humanity.
I know that a lot of people seemed to think that this movie changed information from the latter films in the franchise, but if you just look at direct correlations from The Exorcist to The Beginning, things were done quite brilliantly. (While I do enjoy the later films in the franchise, I tend to think of them more on their own as movies, because they didn’t stir up the emotional conflict that the original did. As is the issue of most sequels. Not standing up to the first one.)
Now, in the case of Dominion… I really don’t understand why William Peter Blatty liked this one over The Beginning. I really don’t. It doesn’t follow the story of the original. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the original when you look at it.
The first time I viewed this movie, I thought it was pretty good. As long as I didn’t consider it a part of the family, I mean. If I detached it from the lore and story of The Exorcist entirely, it was interesting at least.
I watched it a second time and a third (I’m an avid rewatcher), and then I guess put it aside. I recently watched again in order to do this writeup to satisfy a friend’s curiosity, and I’ve decided that I absolutely loathe Dominion. With a fiery passion. Hotter than a thousand suns.
Dominion destroys the suspense and the entire aura of what an Exorcist movie should be. And perhaps it’s my inability to further detach it from the rest of the films that stands in the way of my previous feelings, but it rips apart characters that I enjoy and love, and erases others completely out of existence.
There’s no mention of Pazuzu. There’s a completely different demon. The imagery is too blatantly trying to be frightening, while the script strives to make you hate certain characters no matter what your opinion would be of them otherwise. It’s not just two sides of a coin here, we’re talking about the currency of two entirely different countries. Probably on opposite sides of the world.
While it does actually remain interesting that they got actors to play the same characters in both movies, my opinion on Dominion has collapsed beyond that. The movie is silly, is what it comes down to. It’s a parody of itself. Or maybe, a parody of what it really wants to be when it grows up.
The demon is hokey. The scary parts are trying too hard to be abstract to be frightening in any way. The absence of certain aspects and characters deflates what little story there is. And Father Marrin isn’t even remotely who he should be. He’s not even himself. He says things and does things that are so out of character that they really should have just named him something else. Like Bob. Or Steve.
To top it all off, the hyenas look cuddly.
How can I possibly be afraid of or intimidated by an animal that makes me want to hug it and give it meaty treats? I’ll tell you how: I can’t.
I think it’s good for people who are real fans of the franchise to watch both of these movies and form opinions themselves. I’m not going to proclaim that there should be a mass burning of all copies. It’s a good experience for people to have, I think. But do it this way: Watch The Beginning, then Dominion, then Beginning, then Dominion. I think that on the second viewing of Beginning, you’ll see what I do in it. Perhaps it could have been polished a little more, but of the two, it’s definitely the better film and Exorcist movie.