Review: Fox's 'The Exorcist' delivers on recreating the dreary, insidious spirit of the original
A good horror flick slowly builds intensity by plopping visceral action and uneasiness into its beginning scenes. Then, BAM, the story explodes (usually in some sort of gore) with the bad guy/creature/spirit being exposed for what it really is.
There's usually a clear beginning, middle and end to a scary movie, all contained within two hours.
The same goes for television horror, except that tension and discomfort builds even slower and sometimes isn't resolved until many episodes or seasons later. That's a lot of time spent for those who expect to be scared, grossed out and then get to move on. Small screen terror needs more than just scares and gore to keep it alive.
Only time and more episodes will tell if Fox can deliver quality long-term horror in its small screen remake The Exorcist.
The Exorcist follows a similar vein as the 1973 original: Well-to-do suburban family becomes victim to demonic possession and two very different priests are determined to save them. The two stories occur in the same universe, confirmed when by a newspaper article about the Georgetown events 40-some years earlier.
Director Rupert Wyatt's (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) take carries on the spirit of the original quite nicely. The scenes are blanketed in the crisp blues and steely grays of a chilly Chicago autumn. The calm of suburban life is punctuated by shots of Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) attempting to exorcise a young boy in Mexico City. The harsh scenes are like out of a fever dream; you can almost feel the stifling, humid air of the newspaper-lined room.
But that's really where the similarities end. The pilot isn't very pilot-y. It jumps right in and assumes every viewer has already seen the original (I mean, who hasn't?).
THE Geena Davis is Angela Rance, a mother of two daughters who's trying to keep her family together while caring for husband Henry (Alan Ruck) who has early onset dementia.
Katherine Rance (Brianne Howey) is a recluse most of the day after a car accident that killed one of her best friends forces her to return home from college. Her younger sister, Casey (Hannah Kasulka), is the bubbly half of the sibling duo who just wants to see her sister smile.
Angela starts hearing voices from inside the walls and believes there's some sort of haunted presence in her home, so she contacts Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) of their local parish.
Father Tomas is a handsome, young priest who is progressive and compassionate, yet one can sense a hint of spiritual doubt lingering. When Angela seeks out his help, Tomas even tells her, "demons aren't real, they are an invention of the church."
He's obviously going to be proven wrong, or Fox wouldn't have a show.
The Exorcist does have quite a few obvious flaws, and they all relate to it trying too hard to solidify itself as a horror show and paying homage to the original film.
There are at least three jump scares that don't really make much sense nor add anything to the plot. Angela is also too quick to say she believes there's a demon in her home.
There's also much to be desired in character development, which I hope gets cleared up as the season goes on. The pilot focused too much on the possession that it left hanging characters that desperately needed to be explained further.
The Exorcist doesn't have me hooked yet, but key scenes left me wanting to see more: Father Marcus' exorcism in Mexico city, him teaming up with an inexperienced Tomas, the last five minutes that delivered a twist I definitely did not see coming.
Seriously, watch this if only for the last five minutes.
As a fan of the original, I'm not so sure this TV remake will be able to live up to the hype of the film. But I still can't wait to see what happens next.
The Exorcist premieres at 9 p.m. Friday on Fox.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.