October 11, 2017 – This will be a short one, and please be warned that there are heavy SPOILERS for Exorcist The Series. Season 2 has already begun airing on Fox. I started an “Exorcist Retrospective” on this blog and I’ll take this opportunity of the 31 Days of Halloween to catch up by covering last year’s Season 1.
As of the airing of Season 1, it was my conclusion that The Exorcist should never have been a franchise, but, Exorcist 3 is essential and Dominion works well thematically. Heretic of course is a reviled mess but it is dear and wonderful and inventive; Exorcist the Beginning was a pathetic shame.
So, was The Exorcist TV series necessary? Did it add to the original film’s mythology? Its intense horror? Is it thematically relevant?
No, it did not and was not any of those things. It’s an entertaining story with some great characters. But to look at it as a continuation of The Exorcist diminishes the original and makes this awkward, frustrating and almost silly at times. Had this featured new characters and new demons, it would have been a fine religious-themed horror serial.
What was good here were actors Alfonso Herrera (Father Tomas) and Ben Daniels (Father Marcus). Both priests with intense inner conflicts – none approaching that of the movie’s Father Karras. But still made for interesting character asides. It interferes with their ministry but doesn’t play out in a cliched confrontation with the demon.
Also well done were the possession sequences. The show wisely depicts what we didn’t see in the movie – the “progressive entrapment”/seduction of Regan by ‘Captain Howdy’ aka Pazuzu. And it is creepy, thoroughly disgusting and does in fact fulfill the demon’s mandate in the original movie – to show us as ‘bestial’ and ‘unworthy of God’s Love.’ The demon is depicted as “The Salesman” (actor Robert Emmet Lumney) in a portrayal that’s as surreal as it is ultimately subtle and highly disturbing. It is in fact quite reminiscent of Father Malachi Martins book of purported true tales of exorcism, Hostage to the Devil.
A twist that should have gone further than it did: Mother Bernadette and her convent of nuns, who perform exorcisms through prayer meant to allow the demons redemption and forgiveness. I think that’s fascinating, and Mother Bernadette – who later dies – was a wasted opportunity.
Now, what doesn’t work:
Geena Davis, who, as Angela Rance – BIG SPOILER CLICK AWAY NOW – portrays the former Regan McNeil. Her performance was laconic and I didn’t enjoy it. And when she is eventually Repossessed, it’s almost ridiculous and campy as she struts around town like a super powered villain delivering silly lines.
And the original film is “betrayed” – if such a thing is possible- by a plot twist that reveals that Chris McNeil (portrayed here by Cagney & Lacey’s Tyne Daly) exploited Regan for fame and fortune in the years following her possession. This is an maddening upheaval of what the original stood for, and believe me I am no stickler for continuity,
Too, there is the plot twist of a nefarious Vatican devil worship cult – a fine plot on its own but it truly doesn’t have a place in the Exorcist’s legacy, considering that Willim Peter Batty was a very devoted Catholic.
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