Leave it to the crazy, mixed-up world of today’s television efforts to give us a horror show based on a 40+-year-old movie to give us one the season’s best attempts. I mean, if you like horror.
The main thing to know going in is that there is only a loose connection to the film and/or novel. Events are reminiscent of the circumstances in those creations, but the show branches out on the idea to create its own telling.
The story focuses on Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera), Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels), and their connection to the Rance family. Father Tomas is a small part of a new hope for the church, leading a small-ish parish in the suburbs of Chicago, he’s a new breed of progressive, young priest. Perhaps slightly on the naive side, he is nevertheless a hopeful and charismatic leader. Father Marcus, as counterpoint, has been raised into a very particular role within the Church, and he’s seen some stuff.
Their worlds will collide when Angela Rance (Geena Davis) comes to Father Tomas with concerns that something she can’t explain is in her house. Tomas, for a variety of reasons which I won’t let you in on, seeks out Marcus because he’s something of an expert on exorcisms.
The show, which might easily have unwittingly gone camp, is presented in the straightforward, unassuming manner of the film world’s best “tension horror” films. It gets a little intense at certain moments, but this is a theory of horror that relies on the same tactical build over cats on pianos that made the movie work so well. Still, you want to pay attention to the rating on this one.
Being a show that has to grip you, and get you to settle in, the only chance of rising above a guilty pleasure level is if the two leads are absolutely on point. It might manage to be a decent show if Daniels and Herrera don’t deliver that well, but it can’t manage to get you talking, and/or anxious for the next episode. Luckily, they’re so good that it almost pulls you out of what you’re watching. Daniels is especially surprising, unless you’re familiar with him (Flesh and Bone, House of Cards, Law & Order: UK). You might almost imagine he thought he was doing Shakespeare… well, but in a good way. No one this fall has sold a role better.
The rest of the show needs a little help here and there, but for the most part any negatives aren’t that noticeable, and can be written off to the demands of establishing our story. Geena Davis is slightly distracting, overplaying within a show that, despite freaky goings-on, is aiming for muted subtlety. The rest of the Rance family serves well with limited time, including during the show’s most dangerous scene, when one of the daughters has a go at her father (Alan Ruck), who is recovering from a brain injury in, naturally, the creepiest of ways.
The show emotes oddly, but effectively, at you from the beginning, but walks a dangerous line. That line itself may be its best attribute, even as we are introduced to Father Marcus sauntering through the obviously impoverished streets of wherever evil has deigned to try to grab a foothold on the world.
Dogs show up to growl at him, and filters skew the light spectrum, while camera angles are keyed to set us off balance. That’s the sort of stuff that’s unnerving, or so it says in the handy guide to horror films. Along with the telltale birds, the unecessary explanatory scenes of a mother who might just be dealing with teen angst, and a host of other things, the apparent simplicity should distance audiences from the show. But, the show manages to sidestep the potential flaws it exposes in itself by aiming for an alternate result. It just wants you to get pulled into the characters.
This a show that has no hope of clawing out from under the expectations, good and bad, and its response is to take a pointed assault on them. It’s not going to be horror enough for some, and a lot of people are going to have to be tricked into watching it just because it is horror, and there’s everything in between. It’s certainly horror, with creepy, screamy moments, and it goes bump at you from time to time, but the effort seems to wonder if we can’t make this accidentally horror, as we try to tell a decent story about interesting characters.
The Exorcist is an entity that makes me examine the idea of reviewing a show (because I’m not a horror fan) and my own theory of examining how well something manages to execute what it’s trying to do. This nails its attempt, without requiring its audience to be stupid, and unless the attempt itself is flat out unworthy of being attempted, that has to be worth a lot.If there’s any chance you’ll be interested in this one, you owe it to yourself to tune in, because this is really fun television.
If there’s any chance you’ll be interested in this one, you owe it to yourself to tune in, because this is really fun television.
The Exorcist Trailer
Two very different priests tackle one family’s case of terrifying demonic possession in the all-new FOX series, THE EXORCIST.
Widely regarded as the greatest horror movie ever made, “The Exorcist” broke box office records and terrified audiences around the world. Now, more than four decades after the Academy Award-nominated film, THE EXORCIST returns as a TV series.
Directed by Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), THE EXORCIST is a propulsive psychological thriller following two very different priests tackling one family’s case of horrifying demonic possession. FATHER TOMAS ORTEGA (Alfonso Herrera, “Sense8,” “The Chosen”) is the new face of the Catholic Church: progressive, ambitious and compassionate. He runs a small, but loyal, parish in the suburbs of Chicago.
He has no idea that his quiet life is about to change forever. Deep in the slums of Mexico City, another priest has found himself locked in a life-and-death struggle with evil. FATHER MARCUS KEANE (Ben Daniels, “Flesh and Bone,” “House of Cards”) is a modern-day Templar Knight, an orphan raised since childhood by the Vatican to wage war against its enemies. Father Marcus is everything Father Tomas is not: relentless, abrasive and utterly consumed by his mission – and he constantly butts heads with his adversary within the church, FATHER BENNETT (Kurt Egyiawan, “Beasts of No Nation”).
Caught in the middle of the two priests is the RANCE family, who are members of Tomas’ parish. On the surface, they’re a normal, American family, but all is not as it seems in this household. The patriarch, HENRY RANCE (Alan Ruck, “Spin City,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), is recovering from a traumatic injury. Eldest daughter KATHERINE (Brianne Howey, SCREAM QUEENS) has become a recluse who refuses to leave her room. Her younger sister, CASEY (Hannah Kasulka, “The Fosters”), thinks she’s hearing strange noises coming from inside the walls.
And mother ANGELA (Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Geena Davis, “Commander in Chief,” “Thelma & Louise”) believes there is something in the house, a demonic presence, growing stronger by the day. Desperate, she begs Father Tomas for help, unwittingly setting the naïve young priest on a collision course with Father Marcus. Separately, each faces an insurmountable task, but together they become the Rances’ only hope against an evil force that has been mobilizing for centuries.