Outcast Series Premiere Review: A Perfect Opening Beat for Your Next Horror Obsession

Outcast, "A Darkness Surrounds Him"

One of the most prestigious and well-respected comic creators out there today is Robert Kirkman, and the success of AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead has helped his work transition perfectly onto television as well as in print. Hoping to bank on the pedigree of Kirkman and attempt to attract a TWD-level audience, Cinemax picked up a new series from Kirkman and Fox International Studios before its comic counterpart had even begun publication. The series, Outcast, has been in development for a few years, and it’s finally ready to air (and Cinemax was so happy with its production that the network has already renewed it for a second season). Ahead of its June 3 premiere, Cinemax has made the first episode of the series, “A Darkness Surrounds Him,” available to stream.

The series (and, by extension, the comic) is described as follows:

OUTCAST follows Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a young man who has been plagued by possession since he was a child. Now an adult, he embarks on a journey to find answers, but what he uncovers could mean the end of life on Earth as we know it.

In addition to Fugit, the series boasts the acting talent of greats such as David Denman, Brent Spiner, and more. This pilot episode was written by Kirkman himself (who also serves as an executive producer on the series), and, much to my delighted surprise, the episode was directed by Adam Wingard (best known for The Guest and You’re Next; he is also directing the upcoming Death Note film for Netflix).

The episode (and series) opens with a subtle title sequence that does a solid job of setting the tone for the show that we’re about to watch. The music blends perfectly with the unusual angles of the world that we’re exposed to, and there’s a hint of the supernatural among the proceedings. Immediately afterward, we jump to a young boy in a quiet and out-of-the-way house that is intently watching a bug crawl up his wall. After a moment of hesitation, he slams his head against the wall as hard as possible, causing himself to bleed profusely before killing and eating the insect. Downstairs, the boy’s mother is arguing with what we assume to be his sister, but our real focus is on this child. Something about him just make you incredibly uneasy, and he’s definitely acting in a way that clearly isn’t normal. When his mother finally notices him, we witness with her that her son is eating his own finger. It’s a very disturbing moment, and it’s a sign super early into the series that we’re going to witness some uncomfortable gore.

Moving ahead, we get our first exposure to the town of Rome, the setting of Outcast. Rome is your stereotypical small southern town, and, being from somewhere similar myself, it’s a very easy place to quickly understand. Through Joshua’s mother (the two from the opening scene), we begin getting acquainted with members of the town, including the reverend and the sheriff (played by Philip Glenister and Reg E. Cathy, respectively). After seeing what happened with her son, she’s gone to the reverend for help. The reverend goes to Joshua’s house, and, over the course of a few days, he attempts to exorcise a demon from the boy. The exorcism scene is remarkably well-shot, which is really saying something in a day and age in which exorcism in fiction is extremely common.

During this time, we’re also introduced to Kyle Barnes, played by Fugit, who is the central focus of the story. His house is an absolute mess, and it’s pretty clear that he isn’t in a great place in his life. Throughout his day, he experiences visions and memories that start painting a picture of an extremely troubled childhood, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s going to have an interesting journey over the course of the series. We’re also introduced to his sister Megan, who takes him (albeit mostly against his will) to the grocery store to get him some real food. While there, though, he’s cornered by some old church women who knew his mother. They ask him to pray for Joshua, saying that he’s fallen under dark forces. The information affects Kyle, but he doesn’t have time to think much about it after Megan takes him to her house against his will. As much as Kyle doesn’t want to be there, though, Megan’s husband Mark (played by Denman) obviously wants him there even less. After Megan’s daughter mentions an event from Kyle’s past, he rushes out the door and goes back home, trying to forget.

Outcast, "A Darkness Surrounds Him"

Not able to keep himself away any longer, Kyle eventually goes to Joshua’s house himself, and the reverend convinces him to help with Joshua. In the room, the demon inside the boy tells everyone that he knows Kyle, and his specific knowledge of Kyle’s past begins to terrify the older man and make him angry. Suddenly, Joshua lunges on Kyle, but the reverend manages to get the child away. Outside, he tells Kyle that there is possession all over the place, and it isn’t just inside of Kyle’s mother and Joshua. It turns out that Kyle’s mother is what really erased all doubts in the preacher’s mind about Heaven and Hell, and he wants Kyle to help him with his endeavors, seemingly giving us the essential setup for the plot. He finally agrees to help, after a conversation with his elderly neighbor, and Kyle recreates his efforts with his mother with Joshua. The scene surrounding this effort is absolutely incredible, and it, possibly more than anything else in the episode, sets the tone for the series. We’re dealing with some heavy content, and it’s going to be brutal. It’s going to be dark. It’s going to be creepy. It’s going to be fun as hell.

“A Darkness Surrounds Him” is everything that you could possibly as for from a series premiere for a story like this. It doesn’t hold back with the action or the frights, and it opens the door completely for an interesting story that we’ll get to see play out. There are parts of the episode that are a slow-burn, but energy stays high because of the progression that happens even during that time. This is going to be a really fun series for anyone that likes horror, and I can’t wait for the series to continue after its network debut on June 3.

Have you checked out the series premiere of Outcast yet? What did you think? If not, head over to YouTube by going to WatchOutcast.com. Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below, and be sure to check back in a few weeks for my review of the series’ second episode, “(I Remember) When She Loved Me!”

[Photo Credit: Cinemax]

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