Adapting films into TV series is an artistic and financial gamble, and (instead of coming up with fresh material) one that usually smacks of desperation; you can count the successful shows on ten fingers. Get it wrong, you ruin classics and piss off a whole generation of fans; get it right and you have a Hannibal, Fargo, Buffy or M*A*S*H* on your hands.
So when Fox announced they were turning William Friedkin’s seminal film, The Exorcist (based on William Peter Blatty’s book) your head surely started spinning, just like mine.
Oh, how we were wrong...
The Exorcist stars Mexican actor Alfonso Herrera (Sense8) as Father Tomas Ortega, a pastor with a small parish in Chicago, Illinois as opposed to Georgetown Washington, the location for the film.
Friend and parishioner, Angela Rance (Geena Davis) asks him for help, convinced there are voices in the walls of her house and believing that her daughter, Kat (who’s been acting depressed and withdrawn after the death of a friend in a car wreck) has been possessed.
In what must surely be a horror first, Father Tomas tells Angela that demons are a metaphor for mental illness and addiction – and in that one sentence, this show sets out it stall and shows its pedigree and integrity.
During all this, Father Tomas has been experiencing terrifying nightmares in which he sees another priest, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels, House of Cards & the BBC’s excellent Cutting It) exorcising a demon from a possessed boy in Mexico City, so sets off to find him… and a sense of purpose.
That’s all I’m gonna tell you about the storyline, suffice to say that under Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) expert direction, the show deliciously, yet subtly, toys with the conventions of horror, making it drip with suspense.
Amongst all the great character building, there’s only one real jump-scare and one genuinely scary, if somewhat rushed horror scene, of course taking place in the attic. But it’s the feeling it conveys throughout that’s more impressive – as a highly believable story of one family, The Exorcist slowly moves all its pieces perfectly into place with a chilling sense of foreboding terror.
I kinda can’t wait for next week’s episode “Lupus in Fabula” but might have to watch it with my mom. I’m very aware, charismatic as both lead actors are, that without Rupert Wyatt’s effortless talent, the wheels could easily come off.
Conversely, if the writers can find a fresh angle to take the show out of the original 1973 film’s one limiting bedroom location, many of the necessary ingredients are already there…
The Exorcist continues on Fox on Friday, September 30th – watch it with your moms