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Quite apart from their respective images, any comparison between the two versions -- they tell substantially the same story -- would be more interesting if the films themselves were more interesting. Such a comparison, as we doubtless should have divined, is only possible because they're not. We can now see for ourselves why the Schrader version -- solemn, slow, stagy, talky, listless -- was thought to be unreleasable. Why, though, it was thought to be remakeable, or for that matter makeable in the first place, is not so apparent. And why it was subsequently thought to be releasable after all, in light of the box-office egg laid by Exorcist: The Beginning, is an even bigger enigma. (Opening in the same week as Star Wars, it has pretty much skulked out of town already.) For those of us who boldly predicted that any Schrader film would be bound to be more interesting than any Harlin film, there is plenty of egg to go around. (Napkin, please.) If nothing else -- most especially not the computer-generated hyenas or the maggoty baby -- the evocative central image of a buried church, a desecrated church, a downward-facing church, is put over with more punch, more showmanship, in the Harlin.

The main claim to fame of the Schrader comes down to the distinction, if that's the word, of being the first Hollywood film to identify itself as a prequel in its very title. The further citing of another film title in the title, however, causes a crisis of typography which would seem to dictate an abrupt exit from italics: Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist. But how could you know for certain where the title ends? Perhaps a better alternative might be the adoption of negative numerals whereby a prequel such as this one would become The Exorcist -I: Dominion, or vice versa. (To be read as The Exorcist Minus One.... ) A trilogy of prequels, accordingly, would be obliged to take the form of a countdown, beginning, let's say, with Star Wars -III: The Phantom Menace and concluding with Star Wars -I: Revenge of the Sith. A still better alternative, a veritable rule of thumb, would probably be an abstinence from prequels altogether.

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