In case you missed it, I almost did, the television network Fox recently rebooted the Exorcist franchise into a series. I debated whether I wanted to watch it or not. I love the original movie, I’ve seen it countless times and even owned a super-delux-wit-cheese-and -special-sauce director’s cut on VHS (If you were born in the 90’s ask your grandparents what VHS is). In fact its probably collecting dust right now in the basement. I even watched the mediocre to horrible sequels of the original movie. I am not a fan of reboots, but after reading some online spoiler proof reviews I decided to give it a shot.
There are minor spoilers in the following paragraphs, avoid them if you are or planning to watch the series…
The Good: The scenes that really stood out to me were the ones that took place in Mexico City and centered around Father Marcus’ difficulties with the exorcism of a young boy. The setting of the barrio was symbolism, with its derelict buildings and foreboding atmosphere, for the emotional state of Father Marcus. The exorcism scenes themselves were surprisingly graphic but perhaps more realistic than the split-pea soup spewing ones in the original movie.
That aside what really appealed to me was the scene between Father Marcus and Brother Bennett, which almost gets violent/deadly. I think that this scene really did a lot to show how frustrated and desperate Marcus is, not only by the demon inside the little boy but perhaps by the Church itself. Also, I thought it was interesting how the Church seemed to be opposed to Marcus’ work. Although it was a short scene, it did well to develop his character and perhaps set up future conflicts.
I also liked the scenes with Father Tomas in his apartment with his sister and nephew. Again, it was short but it showed that Tomas was not the pure innocent man who had no flaws or desires that were not Godly. Although his past was only hinted at, it suggested here was a man that was not always compelled to live the life of a Catholic priest. There’s also a later scene where he seems at least open to the idea of questioning/doubting God during a conversation with Angela Rance. All of which makes him relatable and realistic to me.
Despite the good character development and introductions of Tomas and Marcus, I felt that the writing of the show rushed too fast with the Rance family. I never had a feel for who they were and what they are about as individuals. Instead it felt like I was suppose to identify with them because they are an upper middle class white family living in ‘the city’. That they’re good people cause they go to church. That I was supposed to be sympathetic for Dad and his undisclosed generic mental disorder, just because I have a father or am a father myself. Sorry, I need more than that. I need to be shown who/what these people are.
I did not feel anything for them, and they felt like plot furniture rather than characters. Although I understand about Angela’s past, it still felt too quick for her to run to her priest and it felt like lazy writing for her to simply tell Marcus what was going on in the house. It would’ve been way more interesting and entertaining if the events she talks about were shown on screen.
I also found Casey and Kat to be incredibly annoying, which makes me care about them even less.
I think if the writers had spent a little more time showing me this family prior, I could have identified with them a bit more so that when problems start, I would actually care about their fate.
I also found the idea of a teen age/college age girl being the supposed victim of a demonic possession to be cliched. I mean seriously, there are countless movies out that do this same thing. Why not change it up and have Dad possessed? Why not add a grandmother to the family and make it her? Using a ‘attractive’ young woman is just gimmicky and trite. Frankly, it’s eye rolling inducing for me.
I know that there’s the potential for more to the series than just this family, but right now it just feels like lazy writing.
I feel that the show missed a great opportunity to present exorcism in a new way. It would’ve been far more interesting to see the events unfold either in Mexico City, or in a Latino neighborhood where the culture and belief system would be different than that of a middle class white family. Unfortunately, Fox decided to go all-white in this series so far with only a few token characters/scenes of other cultures and what they end up with is just more of the same that I’ve seen countless times in other movies/shows. Fox has reputation for ‘edgy’ shows and they should have pushed things with this series, but unfortunately it does not seem like they’re willing to go that route. I figure the most they’ll do to ‘push’ the boundaries is show some explicit gore or some sexually suggestive scenes with the girl and priest or even her younger sister. Just enough to rile up viewers and increase the ratings, but nothing to really push the plot or characters into new territory.
Summary: Exorcist is a well produced, and acted series with a solid cast. Much like American Horror Story it feels like it’ll be an ensemble story line rather than focusing on one character, which I like. The set designs feel contemporary but at times still have the visual feel of the original movie without being overly nostalgic or over the top.
Based on what I’ve seen in the pilot episode I’d say that the show understands the value of subtle creepiness, a la the homeless man outside the church, and explicit shock value,such as the boy in Mexico City. If it can keep this balance it could be a good horror series.
At this point I am not entirely sure if I’d watch another episode. If I do it will be because of Fathers Tomas and Marcus, rather than the Rance family. I feel like the strongest point of the series could be both priests’ personal struggles and backgrounds as well as the relationship/partnership they develop to help the Rance family.