Updated: Jan 13
Hafa Adai! Welcome to Chamorro Cinema, I'm Island Boy Manuel and it is upon us...FALL TELEVISION! And you know what that means...I'm going to be breaking down all the good? Bad? And more than a little of both (and getting very little sleep).
Today's review is the premiere episode of The Exorcist on FOX.
The episode starts out with a young Antonio Banderas wait that's not El Mariachi? Huh could've fooled me...They not only look the same but the accent and the smoldering sensuality that punctuates the delivery of every line, makes me think this guy is doing his best to be the next flash in the pan "it guy" that eventually voices a cartoon cat.
That doesn't mean that he isn't really good in this role. I believed him as Father Tomas Ortega. He comes across as a nice guy, who wants to do his best as a priest, but also has some of the baggage of dealing with his pride and ambitions. Think Joseph Fiennes in American Horror Story, but more layered. The premiere does a great job setting him up as the altruistic hero while adding depth and conflict. This is masterfully handled slowly through character interaction and small scenes that build up our understanding of Tomas and his struggles.
I wish the same could be said about our introduction to his counter-part, Father Marcus Keane, played by House of Cards Alum Ben Daniels. He is set up right away as the bad-ass. He is practically introduced like on of those retired secret agents in an action/thriller. Tell me if this setup doesn't sound familiar...He is literally sitting on a rooftop, in a slum. When another person is dispatched from his bosses to tell him he needs to come back. He tells him he can't return until he finishes his business here. They argue in veiled threats, then the Marcus scares the other priest away with a gun. It could fit easily into any Rambo/Bourne/XXX/Bond movie out there.
Again though, this does not discount his portrayal of the guilt ridden and world weary Father Marcus. Ben Daniels delivers a tremendous performance, albeit mostly in flash backs. The issues I have with the character is just how on the nose he is. Also if they were going to pattern the priests after Kerras and Merrick, why make the Kerras character so different but make the Merrick character so similar? Heck even the names are similar.
The supporting cast is made up of Alan Ruck and Geena Davis as Henry and Angela, the parents of two teenagers, played by Brianne Howey as Kat and Hannah Kasulka as Casey. This is the family the exorcists need to help.
The daughters and Henry aren't given much to do in the premiere but Davis does her best to portray the matriarch, Angela in the way only her non-expressive face can. The issue I have with the family is that throughout the episode I couldn't place why they thought a demon was afflicting them. A few scratching noises and a moody teenager sounds more like mice and puberty than ancient evil.
The show doesn't really address this either, whereas in the first movie Kerras started off skeptical, this show has Tomas jumping on the belief train with both feet.
The rest of the episode deals mostly with Tomas searching for Marcus and Marcus in flashbacks performing an exorcism in Mexico. The Marcus scenes are horrific and tense. The Tomas scenes are more psychological and dramatic. The episode ends without the priests teaming up and that's okay because I'm enjoying the slow burn of it all.
The visuals are stylish, the acting is great and the show was creepy enough for my wife to ask me if I was sure this was on network television. So much of this show works, but there are a few places where it's budget betrays it particularly in on CG Crow that looks straight out of a PS3 game. If you are a fan of 70's moody and slow paced horror films this show is definitely worth a watch.
Thanks for reading!