I caught an advance screening of the new Exorcist series while I was at Horrorhound. The big problem with trying to do any sort of sequel to the Exorcist, is that the original is such a transgressive film. The imagery and blasphemy is so over the top in the original that honestly if you try to top it match it, you lose half of your audience. What made it special is they managed to balance the grotesque with a chilling atmosphere – it’s a religious horror done right. In the sequels, they tended to focus more on the fear of the unknown, and talk up the religious fear angle. The problem is they never quite manage to hit the same level of atmosphere that the original did. Since then, there have been a score of exorcist themed films, most of which really missed the point. They go for the weird, sometimes the unexplained, but generally fail to achieve the balance of grotesque beauty and atmospheric fear.
Stephen King once pointed out that “terror” is the knife coming at you, and “horror” is seeing the knife go in. Far too often exorcist films stumble trying to achieve terror and land back into horror. All of this is what it makes it a tough proposition then, to create any sort of the sequel, much less an entire series like we are seeing here.
Still, they manage it.
They actually achieve what I think is a satisfying reboot – and do it much the same way the Doctor Who did back in 2005. This is not a true revamp, it is a far removed sequel that continues the series rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
In reality, it might of been better to have called this “AN exorcist” rather than “THE exorcist”. It’s the same universe, it’s the same world, but with none of the same characters (well, maybe the Devil). We get a two second call back to the original movie – it’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment. The music kicks in at the very end of the film and it’s a really appropriate for the imagery we see on screen.
This series looks like it’s going to be all about atmosphere – they get the feel right, it’s
almost like I’m back in John Carpenter’s Prince of darkness… Which is my standard for
religious horror done right. I get a sense of dread, but we only get one or two brief moments of genuine horror in this pilot episode. I spoke with the producer, and it is clear that he is a fan– and desperate to get this right.
“I spend a lot of my Friday nights staying home watching the X files instead of going to parties,” he told me. “And I think I had a much better time! ”
While this first episode is very much a slow burn, he assured me that the series begins to crank up pretty rapidly, “things start to happen, people start to die and it gets crazy pretty quick.”. I already care about these characters that are introduced in the first episode. I love the young priest, and the old priest is surprisingly dynamic – in a hard, lanky, grizzled sort of way. We have a family in peril but that just seems to eb the tip of the iceberg – we get the impression that greater things are happening just below the surface of this community. There is a ground work that I can see being laid here, real world building that’s going on and you know what? It’s a world I really want to spend some time in.
The Exorcist Will be airing on Fox Fridays this fall.