There are some movies that just shouldn’t be remade. That list of films used to be much longer, and deservedly so, but the Remake Monster has gotten to many of the most terrifying films ever made. The Exorcist will forever sit atop that list, and for good reason.
When news came out that Fox was working on a television treatment of the seminal William Peter Blatty novel and film of the same name, most fans automatically discounted the television series with an eye roll and groan. The series is attempting to build on The Exorcist lore, not reboot it. Let’s give it a chance.
Geena Davis is Angela Rance, a mother trying to keep a crumbling household together. Her husband Henry (Alan Ruck) has suffered through an incident or accident that has left him with severe head trauma, while her daughters struggle with their father’s state of being and oldest daughter Charlotte (Brianne Howey) is still recovering emotionally and physically from a deadly car accident. The faith in the household has wavered and this has led to Angela believing there is a presence in the household – voices she can hear in the walls. “It’s a demon,” she tells her priest with a chilling certainty.
Father Tomas Ortego (Alfonso Herrera) is a young priest destined to be “the next big thing” within the church who is perhaps struggling with fidelity and may not even want to be a priest anymore. “Sometimes God gives you a job to do and when that happens, you have to drop everything and just start walking,” Father Tomas tells his parish one Sunday morning. Perhaps he is just looking for something to confirm his personal destiny and faith. It looks like he’ll be getting it within the Rance household.
An older priest by the name of Father Marcus Lang (Ben Daniels) has seen a lot in his time abroad, fighting his own personal demons and fully understanding that the Devil is very real. Father Marcus and Father Tomas connect in real life through a series of vivid and horrific dreams where Tomas has seen Marcus’s attempt at an exorcism from eighteen months earlier. The two determine it is their duty to help the Rance family and will join forces to fight evil.
The cinematography is excellent, with crawling shots across the Andersonville, Illinois landscape. The crisp, autumnal Chicago-area backdrop is perfect for the series’ overall tone as bare trees and swirling winds ramp up the creep factor.
Of course, the main thing almost everyone wants to know when it comes to another regarding The Exorcist universe is just how scary it is going to be. The pilot episode had a solid amount of chilling moments, including some gnarly eye effects and a very fun journey through a familiar attic using shadows and a flashlight beam exceptionally well.
What I liked most about this pilot episode was the fact that the show wasn’t trying too hard. Yes, there are a few quick moments of unnecessary CGI (for a crow and a rat, of all things) but overall, the episode told a story rather than tried to cram the scares down our throat. I like the character development we saw in this first hour of the series, too.
I also like that the show went out of its way to make sure the horror community knew that this was not a reboot of the film. A newspaper article is shown during the episode that states 2 DEAD AFTER GEORGETOWN EXORCISM and shows a photo of the infamous stairwell from the film. There are several nods to the film, including the rats in the attic theory and the blue and white color palette of the home, but one sticks out far above the rest.
As the episode ends with Father Tomas and Father Marcus preparing to meet again, most likely at the Rance household, arguably the greatest horror music of all time begins. Yep, Tubular Bells plays. Not a synthy remix, not a twist to the original. The actual haunting orchestra mix that made such an indelible mark on the original film.
The show faces an uphill battle with staunch horror fans and may need a few episodes to get its footing in the ratings game, but I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and can’t wait to see what else the series has in store for us come September of this year.
The series premieres on FOX on September 23rd. Keep your eyes peeled on your local listings.
Fox’s The Exorcist