There’s no denying William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is the golden standard for horror cinema. The movie, based on William Peter Blatty’s original novel, terrified audiences upon its release in 1973 and continues to do so to this day. After a slew of sequels and countless imitators, both good and bad, it comes as little surprise that the iconic movie is now being turned into a weekly TV series from Fox.
The Exorcist TV series, much like its predecessor, centers on two very different priests – here Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) and Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) – tackling a case of demonic possession befalling the Rance family. Led by matriarch Angela (the always wonderful Geena Davis) who is worried a demonic presence has taken refuge inside her house. While this is not a straight reboot of the classic film, this does take place in the same universe as Reagan’s possession is briefly referenced.
One of the main questions you’re probably wondering is if the first episode is ‘scary’ or not. As a huge fan of the horror genre, I didn’t find much of the debut particularly frightening but a scene involving double pupils did make me squirm. Other than that, the pilot is full of jump scares which is especially tedious considering the source material the show is pulling from. There is literally a scene where a bird crashes through a window startling Angela – something that’s been done in far too many horror films to name – and it just feels cheap.
The Exorcist is truly at its best when it focuses on the characters – particularly in scenes exploring the lives of the two priests and the complicated relationships in the Rance family. By pressing pause on all the demon talk, we get to explore these characters a little deeper – allowing us to learn more about them and, most importantly, care about them when things start to head south; The Exorcist would be smart to continue with more of this and less of the overdone jump scares. We are thrust into the ‘possession’ aspect of the series very early on, which feels a little too soon without the emotional attachment to these people. Because of this, my interest waned slightly during the premiere, but a clever third act twist instantly pulled me back in and set the stage for the entire season.
With a spectacular cast and just enough intrigue to leave you wanting more, The Exorcist might just be the surprise breakout of the fall season. Time will tell if the show has the power to compel audiences to tune in each week.
The Exorcist debuts Friday, September 23rd at 9PM EST on Fox.