"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" may be advice film producers would be wise to ignore. After sinking a reported $40 million into a Paul Schrader-directed prequel to the 1973 horror hit "The Exorcist," Morgan Creek Chief Executive James Robinson shelved that version and brought in director Renny Harlin -- known as much for his duds ("Cutthroat Island," "Mindhunters") as his hits ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger") -- to reshoot it at considerable expense. Harlin's film, titled "Exorcist: The Beginning," was released last August to poor reviews and negligible box office.
In an unusual move, Morgan Creek and the film's distributor, Warner Bros., are now releasing Schrader's film, "Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist," before it settles into ancillary perpetuity. It would be exciting to report that "Dominion" is a hidden gem rescued from beyond obscurity by a rare act of Hollywood humility.
Unfortunately that's not the case, as Schrader's version is only marginally better; and though the two directors' prior work could not be more different, both films fall into the category of instantly forgettable.
Schrader, the scholarly, acclaimed screenwriter of "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" and director of "American Gigolo" and "Affliction," among other films, is the more subtle and complex filmmaker, and "Dominion" takes a more psychologically intricate path in exploring how a Dutch parish priest becomes an exorcist extraordinaire in 1947 British East Africa. The film, however, is marred by some of the same problems as Harlin's version -- namely, weak supporting characters, unintentionally funny dialogue and poorly executed special effects. William Wisher and Caleb Carr are the credited screenwriters on "Dominion" and received "story by" credit on "Beginning," which was rewritten by Alexi Hawley.