One of my surprise favorite dramas last season was A&E’s Damien, a modern-day continuation of the classic The Omen film series. I’m a huge horror fan, and I’m one of the few that absolutely loves television reboots and continuations of well-loved movies. While Damien, a strict sequel rather than a reboot, never managed to find a substantial enough audience to earn a second season, Fox is hoping that they’ll fare better this year with their own experiment.
Tonight, Fox debuted The Exorcist, a modern re-imagining (but not really a reboot) of what is often called the scariest film ever made. A series like this is always going to have a ton of preconceptions working against it, but Fox has done such a good job casting (especially Geena Davis) and promoting the series that I think enough people will see it as being worth a shot.
Let’s talk about the series premiere of The Exorcist, “Chapter One: And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee.”
The basic premise of the series is pretty simple. After mysterious things start happening in her house, a woman, played by Geena Davis, goes to her local priest to tell him that she thinks a demonic presence has entered her life. Her husband is in a terrible state, and her daughter has completely turned away from her faith and become almost an entirely different person, so it’s easy to see why she might feel this way. The priest, Alfonso Herrera’s Father Tomas, doesn’t believe her at first, but, after a visit to the house and some research into exorcism, he starts to see that he may not know as much as he thinks he does. What follows is a slow-burning descent into the discovery of the face of true evil.
Let’s get the big question out of the way: no, the pilot of this series does not reach the heights of The Exorcist film. The thing is, though, that it doesn’t have to. Despite sharing a name with the source material, Fox’s The Exorcist could easily be its own thing (although eagle-eyed viewers will notice an Easter egg on Father Tomas’ computer that shows, perhaps, the series is actually set in the same universe as the original film). The narrative, while somewhat predictable, hooks you from the very first scene (easily the best single scene in the pilot), and it keeps you intrigued throughout. The biggest success of the episode, though, is that it establishes the same tone as the film. The Exorcist wasn’t about jump scares or blatant frights, and the series shouldn’t be either. Instead, it wisely relies on an uneasy tension that pervades the entire running time, and you’re uncomfortable (in a good way) the entire time that you’re watching. That fact alone sets The Exorcist apart from much of the rest of television horror.
What really sells The Exorcist, though, is the cast. Predictably, Geena Davis is spectacular, and it’s so nice to have her back on television. The real highlight too me, however, was Herrera as Father Tomas. He completely delivers on all fronts, perfectly capturing and establishing the character that the show wants us to root for. I was also pretty impressed with Brianne Howey as Katharine (the daughter), and I feel that her performance in the series will be one of the things that draws a lot of the audience in.
The other thing that worked very well in “Chapter One” was the sound design. The score for the episode was wonderful (and I loved the return to the classic film theme in the end), but there were some great things done with sound throughout the episode (particularly in scenes at the church).
The series premiere of The Exorcist, in all honesty, probably won’t do much to hook anyone that isn’t already interested in the series. For those that are, however, it should prove to be a very solid new addition to a crowded horror landscape on television. Unlike many new series, The Exorcist showed that it has loads of potential for greatness, and I can’t wait to tune in each week to see where the story goes from here.
What did you think of the series premiere of The Exorcist? Will you be tuning in for Chapter 2 next Friday? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!
[Photo Credit: Fox]
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