Todd Sheets’ “Dominion” (1992)

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming with another obscure SOV horror movie dredged up from YouTube. The first scene was copied from Salem’s Lot and is set to some “Tubular Bells”-style music. A girl of about ten is writing a journal entry by candlelight in her attic bedroom. “It’s been three weeks since the disappearance of my brother.” she narrates. “He and the other children haven’t been found. The police chief has decided to give up on them. I still believe my brother is alive.” She blows out the candle and curls up in bed.

A little boy knocks on her window. Fog billows behind him. A strobe light goes off. “Aren’t you going to let me in?” he asks impatiently.

Credit: Film Freaks Filmisnow

“Cabal, I thought you were dead.” the girl says. No you didn’t. Forty seconds ago you wrote, “I still believe my brother is alive.”

Who names their son Cabal? It means secretive group engaged in a plot. Might as well call him Freemason. The name is likely a reference to Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, in which the main character is renamed Cabal and tasked with protecting a city of mutants. Dominion may have been shot closer to 1990 when Nightbreed came out.

“I ran away and joined this group of people.” Cabal explains. Yikes. Sounds human trafficky.

Elizabeth is unnerved by her brother’s stare. She senses something is different about him.

“Elizabeth, let me in!” Cabal demands. He bares his teeth to be scary, how little boys do. It’s so cute. Reminds me of my son. I just want to tickle his angries away.

Elizabeth clutches a cross. Her brother has vanished. She relights the candle and weeps on her bed. Dominion!

Credit: Film Freaks Filmisnow

There is a creepy harpsichord theme at the end of the credits I’m guessing was done by Matthew Jason Walsh, though I can’t be sure as he shares music credit with Todd Sheets’ metal band Enochian Key and the mysterious Black Orchid. It also could have been swiped from elsewhere. Sheets used music from Zombie in Zombie Rampage and public domain stuff in Goblin.

A grandmotherly woman (Carol Barta) stands in Elizabeth’s room. She runs her hands across Elizabeth’s diary, indicating what we just saw was a flashback. She is pained by the memory. She hugs her diary, then places it into a suitcase full of wooden crosses.

Detective Roger Williams (Frank Dunlay) sits at his desk. A rookie named Clarence (Auggie Alvarez) hands over some files. These bolded actors were all in The Witching, produced by Sheets, directed by Walsh. A fun part of running through a low-to-no-budget filmmaker’s work is seeing the same actors pop up again and again. Roger’s partner Stan walks in. He recognizes Clarence as the holder of the high score at the firing range. I know what you’re thinking. Clarence’s pinpoint accuracy will end up saving the day. Well, it doesn’t! You’re wrong!

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Stan gives Roger the rundown on last night’s murder victim. “Blood drained from deep lacerations to the throat”.

Roger looks puzzled. “That makes twelve victims this month. Sounds like a serial killer.” Is he just now coming to this conclusion? How did he account for the first eleven? Hmm, a bit more than usual, but nothing out of the ordinary. A dozen, though? That’s where he draws the line. I love his approach. Let’s all ignore problems until they reach nice, even numbers.

Stan suggests their maniac is a vampire, or at least someone who believes they’re a vampire.

“Oh, god, get the garlic out.” Roger jokes. “Well, I’d believe anything at this point, even Bela Lugosi.”

Credit: Film Freaks Filmisnow

Clarence announces a thirteenth victim was found. Stan and Roger respond to the call. They somehow determine the victim was a prostitute. Her blood is gone too. A vice officer asks if her pimp did it. Yeah, genius, her pimp drained her blood. Roger retrieves a skin sample from under the prostitute’s fingernails. Elizabeth walks up saying she knows who’s responsible. Great job securing the crime scene, gentlemen. She’s taken downtown and tells the detectives they’re dealing with a cult of vampires. She looks right at the camera.

Meanwhile, a couple “makes out” on the street. They rub their hands over each other in a silly, unrealistic way. Their faces never touch. I’m really feeling the passion. The woman abruptly asks “So what’s it gonna be?” I take it she’s also a hooker. The man chokes her, then rams his hand through her stomach, Night Killer-style.

A lab tech informs the detectives their skin sample is dead tissue, perplexing them. Roger gestures to a few dots on a map, stating all the murders occurred near an old subway tunnel. What subway? This movie was shot in Kansas City, Missouri.

“So that old lady wasn’t crazy after all.” Stan infers.

Huh? How does Roger’s theory support Elizabeth’s claims? The two of them grab Clarence and head to the entrance — a manhole. Real subways have stairs. They climb down into the darkness. Roger is ambushed by a vampire wearing an unbuttoned shirt brandishing a wooden stake. It seems incredibly stupid to carry your own weakness around. You don’t see the Leprechaun attacking people with an iron pipe covered in four-leaf clovers. Stan gives the vampire three seconds to freeze before shooting. That’s the difference between 90s cops and today’s. After three seconds, he blasts the guy five times, but it has no effect. Stan’s throat is slashed… I think. He dies. I only know he dies because they talk about him later in the past tense. Roger grabs the stake from the vampire and stabs him in the chest with it. The sound drops out as the vampire smolders, becoming a skeletal corpse. There are two quick shots of Veronica Orr and some other woman skulking about.

Look how long his arms are! They’d hang down to his feet!
Credit: Film Freaks Filmisnow

We move to the vampires’ lair — Park University, presumably filling in for a castle. I doubt they live at a college. Tonia Monahan informs Cabal that police are closing in on them. He’s their leader and hasn’t aged a day. He says he wants hundreds of thousands of followers so he can take over the world.

Cut to high schooler Beth’s farmhouse. She’s pleading with her father to let her see Enochian Key in exchange for getting good grades. Dad says they have to clear it with Mom first. Mom is apparently newly religious and works at a church. It’ll be a hard sell. They walk to the living room. This part is hilarious.

“Honey, Beth and I need to discuss something.” Dad begins. He places a hand on his wife’s knee. She removes it. He does it again. She removes it again. The third time he does it, she looks down in disbelief. I don’t know if this subtle interaction was part of the script or if the actress was genuinely repulsed, but it cracks me up either way.

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“Beth got five As and one B on her quarterly report,” Dad continues like he’s talking to a toddler, “and I promised her if she did really good she could go see her favorite band in concert tomorrow.”

By now, Mom is pissed from the unwelcome touching. “Oh, and what band is that?” she asks in a bitchy tone.

“Enochian Key.” Beth responds.

“Absolutely not! No way. The guys in that band are weird… they’re Satanic or something.”

“They stand against Satan, mother, not for him!” Beth argues. Sheets’ religious albeit macabre lyrics and the fact that he often thanks Jesus lead me to believe this is true. However, the violent, gory nature of his movies just seems so unchristian. He’s a complex individual.

Mom can’t be swayed. “Forget it!” she yells.

Beth says she’s going anyway. She brings up her mother’s promiscuous past and gets slapped for it.

Dad unloads on his wife. “Couldn’t you just relax and let her have fun for once?” There is contempt in his voice. He’s been waiting a long time for this. “All you care about are your close-minded ignorant church buddies and I’m sick of it. You can take them, and your holier-than-thou bullshit attitude and ram it up your ass!”

Mom collapses in tears on the couch.

Follow along! The second part is from a scene further down.

Later that night, Beth is at work. Her friend Katie (Jenny Admire) gets her for break. They go outside. Beth sits on the hood of someone else’s car. A long-haired, well-dressed, well-spoken man named Tepishe (pronounced tĕpēshā, Mike Hellman) walks up. He introduces himself as the owner and randomly notes that he promotes local bands, including Enochian Key. Beth asks if she and Katie can have backstage passes. Tepishe obliges.

Two hookers knock on the window of a stopped pickup truck. Matthew Lewis rolls it down. “So, baby, what can I do to you?” Hooker #1 asks.

“Nothin’! I’m naht inerreszh.” Lewis’ unnamed character mumbles. Then, very clearly and smugly, “I have no interest in catching any diseases from any of you two. Ha!” He rolls his window back up.

The hookers decide they should eat him. So far, hookers have been the preferred prey of the vampires. Are these ones victims that came back to life? The heroes haven’t mentioned any bodies going missing from the morgue. Why aren’t all the victims returning? I’m so confused. We need some consistency here. Lewis’ character is home now. He strips down to his boxers. The hookers appear in his bedroom. The visuals seem to imply they can turn into fog and seep through tight spaces. How do they know where he lives? Why don’t they require an invitation? Cabal needed one for his own house. Using their teeth, they tear strips of flesh off his torso and neck. He dies. Sheesh. These vampires behave more like zombies.

Sharpshooter Clarence meets the vice cop from earlier at another crime scene on Bimbo Street. For context, Sheets directed three movies around this time with “Bimbo” in the title. The vice cop urges Clarence to enlist the help of a retired investigator named Jack “The Real Ghostbuster” Sheppard who specializes in strange cases, sorta like a pre-X-Files Mulder. A hand reaches out of the body bag, choking the vice cop. It doesn’t show what happens next, leaving it unclear if he dies. Clarence excitedly tells Roger they need to find Sheppard. They pick up Elizabeth and… arrive at Sheppard’s house. I guess they knew his address. Elizabeth recognizes him as an old boyfriend. They instantly rekindle their romance. Sheppard agrees to lend his expertise to the investigation.

All four pile into a squad car for “the most intense car scene ever in a movie” as a YouTuber titled it. They sit in stony silence for nearly a minute as the red light spins and the car gently shakes. That “Tubular Bells”-style music resumes. Roger steers way too much. Clarence looks around. He scratches his nose. He checks the back seat. It’s hilariously uneventful.

Beth is back at work. She’s reading an H.P. Lovecraft story because they inspire Enochian Key. Tepishe is standing at the window. He takes her out for a bite to eat. They cap it off with a horse-drawn carriage ride. Tepishe gives vague answers about his past, hinting that he’s hundreds of years old.

Cabal is at the concert venue, laying out an evil plan to Enochian Key. The members are Sheets, Joe Dirt lookalike Jerry Angell, and a drummer I don’t know. Cabal says his dead master Enoch is strapped to a cross. At the end of the show, they will slaughter the fans and lower Enoch into their blood, causing him to be reborn. Angell asks “So, like, what then, man?” I hate the way he says it. His tone is so combative. Just do the murders, Jerry. Cabal assures him he and his bandmates will be turned into gods. They share a laugh, slapping each other’s arms in a congratulatory manner.

Elizabeth is telling Roger everything she knows about vampires. She says the undead beings spend daylight underground where it’s dark, especially deserted subways. This looks like more of the scene where Roger took her downtown for questioning. If this was supposed to play then, it explains Stan’s line “so that old lady wasn’t crazy after all”. Elizabeth says vampires are repelled by crucifixes because they represent good. If that’s the case, how is Cabal using one as we speak? Who was in charge of continuity? Checks. Wow, they actually had someone. Dana Cheney. Come on, Dana, you can do better.

Elizabeth, Roger, Clarence, and Sheppard are suddenly having a meeting. An officer brings in an ad for Enochian Key’s “Sanguinary Desires” tour. He says a concerned mother called regarding them and a Satanic ritual. It was probably Beth’s mom, that bitch. Roger swears the woman in the ad is the same one he saw the night Stan was killed. Whoa, first of all, this was never mentioned before. I’m guessing that’s why the quick shots of Veronica Orr and that other woman were added. Secondly, Roger is looking at a drawing… a drawing of a horned demoness posing next to a tiger and werewolf. He saw that? Really? I can’t with this guy. Elizabeth is quick to point out that sanguinary means blood and notices fine print reading “Cabal Productions, Inc.”. That’s all the info they need. They rush to memorial hall where the concert is starting.

Credit: Film Freaks Filmisnow

Credit: Film Freaks Filmisnow

The raucous crowd is shot in close-up to conceal the fact that it only consists of about thirteen people, including Deric Bernier, who’s also on stage playing Enoch. Sheets sings while Angell shreds on guitar. The sound quality is garbage, but the chorus of the song seems to have an anti-Satanic message, warning that Lucifer covets our mortal souls. The song they play over the end credits is easier to make out:

Something’s there in the palm of your hand
it’s a fatal warning, a pentagram
birth of the beast from deep within man
it’s a sanguinary sign in the Devil’s land

Something here, deep in my heart
it touches my lonely soul
Lucifer’s vengeance tears the world apart
but it’s time to take control

In the second verse, Sheets is given a sword by God. Yet, the band is used as a means to unleash Hell on Earth. I’m getting mixed signals. What was Sheets’ intent? Does it matter? Can our heroes thwart Cabal’s evil plan and banish his army, saving the city? Tune in and find out. For reasons unknown, the movie ends with footage of a random cop coming home from a hard day’s work. There are several cool names in the credits that are never spoken onscreen — Jamalia, Gazelle, Asmodeus, and Mistianna. Seems like a waste.

Credit: Film Freaks Filmisnow

I used to think vampire movies were boring, The Lost Boys, Subspecies, and a few others being exceptions (I don’t remember Fright Night very well — is that one good?). Then, I saw Dracula in Vegas, Kingdom of the Vampire, and Vampire Cop and realized they could be awesome. Dominion is an absolute joy from start to finish.

It’s basically one big advertisement for Enochian Key, and I find that hilarious. As Ray Dennis Steckler once sagely said “Before you make a movie you look around and see what you have, not what you want to go get. Think about all the things you don’t have to spend money for and then write your story around them, because now you’ve saved $20,000.”[1] Sheets had a band and very little money, so I totally get why he featured it.

One reason I like Dominion so much is because the violence is toned down considerably from that of, say, Goblin. Extreme gore harshes my vibe. Here, there’s mostly just flesh ripping. Besides that, Dominion is classic Sheets. It has an ambitious, supernatural plot. It references multiple movies. It’s dark, drained of color, hard to hear, amateurish in just about every way, and full of heart. The actors suck as much as the vampires they play, but they tried and they’re fun to hang out with. I feel like I’m getting to know them quite well. The boy does a great job considering how young he is.

Like I mentioned earlier, some shots are in weird places. Sheets may have forgotten to shoot certain things and tried to correct it. He admits he had no idea what he was doing at this stage of his career. He explains the difficulty of editing his early movies in episode 14 of SOBs Who Love SOV. “I literally found a VHS VCR with a flying erase head, which was the biggest thing ever. I was like Oh my god, I can edit without those rainbow things everywhere. Let’s do that. And I literally was using the camcorder for the other VCR and it had a dub feature and so I was able to assemble and edit with a pause button and a play button and that was it. You’d have to time it. I didn’t even have the cool edit controller. I had none of that. I had a pause button. And then I went back after it was all done and I did a dub to put music in. I had to do the sounds effects while we were doing the video edit on the fly. Like, I’d have to have either a microphone there or a little sound gizmo thing hooked up to a mixer… Sometimes a Sega Genesis was our sound machine.”[2]

Dominion was put out by Video Outlaw, a division of Tempe Video. Their VHS, cat. no. 1036, has a copyright year of 1994 and uses the same tagline as Children of the Corn — “And a child shall lead them!” Dominion later appeared in the 50-movie, 12-DVD set “Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares” with five other Sheets movies. I watched it on the Film Freaks Filmisnow YouTube channel, if you couldn’t tell from the captions. Their version annoyingly crops out the top of the image to make it “widescreen”. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, head on over to YouTube and check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Otherwise, you can take your holier-than-thou bullshit attitude and ram it up your ass!

Note: the only info I found on “Black Orchid” is that it’s not the band that recorded this album in Lawrence, Kansas, forty minutes from where the movie was shot, less than a year after the VHS came out, as hard as that is to believe.

References
1. Rausch, Andrew J. Gods of Grindhouse: Interviews With Exploitation Filmmakers. BearManor Media, 2013.

2. Sovhorror. “SOBs Who Love SOV – Ep 14 Goblin (1993).” Online video clip. YouTube. August 20th, 2020. Web. July 25th, 2022.

3 comments on “Todd Sheets’ “Dominion” (1992)

  1. Beau Montana says:

    Now this looks like a quality film that I’ve come to expect from Tom Sheets!

    Like

  2. Beau Montana says:

    Whoops! I mean TODD Sheets, Tom’s less fortunate brother

    Liked by 1 person

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