First Impressions: The Exorcist (USA, 2016) is a worthy successor to its classic horror counterpart

It’s not hard to imagine what was most likely going through the minds of the studio executives at 20th Century Fox when they finally went ahead and gave the green-light for a television series based off arguably the greatest horror film of all time. It actually comes off as a bit of a surprise as to why it wasn’t done sooner, considering the recent (but more importantly) successful television adaptions of horror classics such as Scream, The Evil Dead, and Psycho. So it goes without saying that it was really only a matter of time before William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece was followed up by a venture onto the small screen. The question that begs to be asked though is of course, is The Exorcist worthy of the title it holds?

Having watched the first five episodes of this preliminary season back-to-back, I can give you the short answer with an effervescent sigh of relief and say yes, The Exorcist so far is definitely worth your time. The reasons why this is so though, are all the more exciting.

Set as an indirect sequel some 40 odd years later to the original film, The Exorcist revolves around the possession of a teenage girl and her family’s attempts to bring their loved one back into the realm of this world. While the plot may sound basic and run of the mill, it’s greatest strength actually lies in just that. The Exorcist knows exactly what type of show it is and in realizing that, doesn’t attempt to play through a multitude of genres in which nothing really makes sense or characters come off as being unnatural and un-relatable. Instead the show is able to focus in on what made the original so terrifyingly shocking and disturbing: the possession of a young girl.

The scares come thick and thin too, as the boundaries of what can actually be show on a prime-time television show seem to be pushed further and further each episode. While the possession of Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka) builds slowly over the course of the first five episodes, the buildup itself is so full of downright unsettling moments that I’m not even sure whether The Exorcist will still have the ability to gross me out any further than it already has done. Thankfully The Exorcist (like the original film) doesn’t rely too heavily on “jump scares” either, instead allowing the horror to come straight through the beautifully detailed imagery envisioned by the production team behind the show.

The casting behind this series is another exemplary reason as to why The Exorcist stands high above its fallen horror television show counterparts. While there’s a smattering of familiar faces to be found throughout (Geena Davis and Alan Ruck to name a few), the combination of known, somewhat known, and completely unknown actors is a joy to see in a time where many Hollywood movie stars seem to be over-saturating the television industry in what ultimately feels like a move done for economic reasons rather than creative ones. Both Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels, who portray the weak Father Tomas Ortega and the tough as nails Father Marcus Keane consecutively, are without doubt, one of, if not the finest aspects of The Exorcist so far. Their relationship on screen is simply dynamic, with both constantly demonstrating a raw realism hardly seen on any horror television show currently on air.

In addition to its superb casting, since The Exorcist is an indirect sequel to the original Exorcist, the iconic tubular bells music also makes an appearance in a few odd spots here and there, with just enough uses to remind you that this show is most definitely related to the film. Thankfully however, the theme is not overused and is utilized subtly enough to actually provoke and assist in some of the show’s more tense and terrifying moments. In addition to this, the general atmosphere from the original movie has been beautifully encapsulated in both the show’s set production and art direction. The costume department also deserves a round of applause for providing a fresh yet ominous take on the classic black hat, cloak and briefcase look which Father Karras (Jason Miller) adopted to eerie effect in the original film.

As far as first impressions go, The Exorcist has on all fronts, exceeded my expectations. If the show continues on the path laid out before it and doesn’t stray, there is no reason as to why it can’t be one of the best newcomer shows of the year.

The Exorcist starts December 4, Sundays at 8.30pm AEDT, only on Foxtel’s showcase channel.


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