The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months and beyond. So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…
THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition)
The Exorcist (Fridays on FOX)
I have another confession to make: I watched The Exorcist (the film) for the first time on October 1st. Despite my continuing self-education in the horror genre, I’ve still got an awful lot of blind spots, and until recently, The Exorcist was a big one. I have to say that as much as I respect it, I didn’t actually enjoy it all that much – I’m so accustomed to the conventions of modern horror that I don’t feel like The Exorcist did anything that The Conjuring didn’t do better. I know, I know, that’s a fairly sacrilegious opinion for a horror fan to have. You may also think that it’s sacrilege to turn The Exorcist into a primetime television show. You’d be wrong.
FOX’s The Exorcist does everything right. The pilot combines strong writing from series creator Jeremy Slater, strong directing by Rupert Wyatt, and strong performances by the show’s cast to create an evocative, thrilling, and thoughtful hour of television.
The Exorcist isn’t a remake, like Lethal Weapon. It’s more of a thematic continuation, taking place in the same world as the 1973 original (keen-eyed viewers will notice a reference to Friedkin’s film). Like the film, the story primarily follows one family, the Rance’s: Hannah Kasulka and Brianne Howey play sisters Casey and Katherine Rance respectively, the latter of which seems to be suffering from depression after the loss of her friend; Alan Ruck is Henry Rance, who seems to be suffering from Early Onset Alzheimer’s; Geena Davis is Angela Rance, the worried mother who believes that Katherine may be possessed by a demon. There’s a lot of turmoil in this family, but you feel for them and desire to see things work out for them. Of course, it wouldn’t be The Exorcist without priests, and this show has plenty, although the focus is squarely on two – Alfonso Herrera’s Father Tomas Ortega and Ben Daniels Father Marcus Keane. Father Keane is the grizzled, veteran exorcist who is recuperating after his last exorcism went horribly wrong, whereas Father Ortega is the young, naive priest who doesn’t even believe that demons exist. Ultimately, he is proven wrong and he goes to seek Father Keane’s help. The show is well-cast and well-acted, and I’m excited to see how these characters grow and change as they question their faith and their place in God’s plan.
If you’re expecting a thrill-a-minute show or something more akin to Supernatural, you’re going to be disappointed. This is The Exorcist. It’s something of a slow burn, but there’s a palpable sense of dread hanging over the proceedings – thanks in large part to Wyatt’s directing – which is enough to keep you hooked until the next scare.
I absolutely adore this show – it feels very much in the vein of Hannibal, a beautiful adaptation made with enough care and respect to elevate it to the level of the source material, and potentially beyond. I know it won’t be for everyone, but if you liked Hannibal or if you’re a horror fan, absolutely give it a chance. By the time “Tubular Bells” kicks in at the end of the episode, you’ll be hooked.