[All images courtesy Jean Whiteside/FOX]
As I noted in the SciFi4Me recap of The Exorcist’s 10th episode “Three Rooms,” the freshman horror drama’s chances of getting a second season are (at press time), leaning towards “No.”
I was one of those “old school” horror fans who viewed a television continuation of the 1973 “Scariest Movie Ever Made” with caution; a reaction shared by SciFi4Me’s Timothy Harvey. For every successful transplanting of a famous horror franchise to television (Bates Motel), there’s a soon-forgotten misfire (Damien).
What makes The Exorcist on FOX a successful addition to the franchise? Let us count the ways. Within each point, I’ll link to the SciFi4Me recap for episodes that were particularly good examples.
One – The Exorcist delivers the horror goods – both Subtle and Gross-Out varieties.
The Exorcist featured some subtle slow burn scares – a rat strangled in midair in “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” and the Volcare Pulevere Selection Dinner that wrapped up “Star of the Morning.” But The Exorcist didn’t stint on gross-out shots like Tomas’s Abuela in “Three Rooms,” Angela’s vision Casey’s maggot-eaten face (also from “Star of the Morning”), or Casey viciously mauling a drunken frat boy (“Let ‘Em In“).
Two – The Exorcist satisfies Exorcist die-hards … and newbies.
When The Exorcist was still being sold as a “new” story in the established Exorcist continuity, every episode featured a nod to the original 1973 movie – like pea soup for dinner in “Lupus in Fabula.” But even after Episode Five “Through My Most Grievous Fault” acknowledged Angela Rance was Regan MacNeil all grown up, the visual nods continued. In “Star of the Morning” Casey performed the (in)famous “Spider Walk” – a scene cut from The Exorcist theatrical release.
Three – Solid acting, from Oscar Winners to “Hey – it’s THAT lady from THAT movie!”
Even in a fantastical story, we have to buy into the characters and their struggles. Oscar winner Genna Davis (Angela Rance) and veteran Alan Ruck (Henry Rance), joined by Hanna Kasulka (Casey) and Brianne Howey (Kat), made the incredible events affecting the Rance family believable.
We won’t see them in a second season, but late, lamented characters like Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan) and Cherry and Lester Rego (Kiera Naughton and Ken Marks) will be missed – along with the unlamented Captain Howdy (Robert Emmet Lunney).
Four – The parts of the story that didn’t work didn’t detract from the success of the overall story.
There were parts of The Exorcist that didn’t work (or make sense).
- The tortured (and torture to watch) relationship of Father Tomas and Jessica from Evanston.
- The Made for TV Exorcism of Father Marcus.
- The length of time it took for the Regan MacNeil storyline and the Plot Against Pope Sebastian plot to finally merge.
Fortunately, the things that didn’t work for me as a viewer (or fan of the original Exorcist) didn’t sabotage the series as a whole.
Five – The Exorcist featured contemporary issues of gender, sexuality, and class division in a horror context.
Like Science Fiction, Horror has been a mirror to reflect what society is afraid of in each generation, from race (Night of the Living Dead), gender (Bride of Frankenstein), sexuality (Dracula), and class divisions (Candyman).
The disparity in public attention paid to the nine African Americans slaughtered in Englewood is compared to the public attention paid to the disappearance of one young white woman in “Star of the Morning.” In “Three Rooms” Angela saves herself from integration with the demon Pazuzu. Throughout the series, both Kat Rance and Father Marcus were strong, interesting LGBTQ characters.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY FOR HORROR/EXORCIST NERDS
The Exorcist television series has (we hope) erased the so-bad-it’s-really-awful Exorcist II: The Heretic from series continuity.