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The Exorcist - Chapter One: And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee - Review: "Forgive Me Fandom for I Have Sinned"

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In 1973, Warner Bros. released The Exorcist. It became the second most popular film of the year, and would go on to become the ninth highest grossing film of all time, in North America. It still remains the highest grossing R-Rated movie of all time and lives on as a classic horror movie. After four decades, and numerous sequels, the franchise was reborn tonight. I expect that I'm not alone in having nervously anticipated tonight's The Exorcist premiere. Horror fans have expressed both anxiety and excitement over social media in the months and weeks counting down to the premiere. This is a show that will likely split fans; some will find it entertaining, others will most definitely hate it. Whether people like it or not, there's a demon coming, and FOX are about to exorcise (and some would argue exploit) the shit out of it (and this franchise).

*terrifying demonic scream*
First let's mention that creepy opening which seemed very reminiscent of the original. A priest, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels), wanders down a dark alleyway before hearing a child scream. As he begins to investigate, the screaming morphs into what can only be described as being demonic. No shocker there, right? It already feels like The Exorcist, and I'm glad. It put me on edge and sets the scene. It also introduces us to one of the three main characters, Father Marcus. The show follows him, Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) and Angela Rance (Geena Davis), in overlapping storylines. Each are very connected to religion, and each have their own problems which the season will no doubt attempt to resolve.

Father Tomas is a likeable and ordinary Mexican man who questions his faith quite a lot. His sister mentions that their grandmother is no longer around, so if he wants to, he can give up his religious convictions. Whilst denying that he's just "giving it a shot", Father Tomas does later confess that he has doubts. He explains that, unlike other priests, he did not hear God's actual voice calling him to serve. His grandmother pressured him into being a priest, and clearly it's taking its toll. Those familiar with the 1973 movie may notice that the character is very similar to Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller). Damien also struggles with his faith, doubting such in the aftermath of his mother's death. The two characters also have distinct accents, Father Tomas being Mexican, and Father Damien is Greek. The most evident tie is however the fact that both do not originally believe in exorcisms or demons, until they meet a possessed young girl. The connection between the two men does lean towards a "rip-off" label more than just paying homage, but I suppose it adds to the show's familiarity. I can only hope that Father Tomas doesn't meet a similar fate as Father Damien.

What's your past, Father Tomas?
Although he's the likely hero, there is a certain air of mystery surrounding Father Tomas. He briefly notices a man across the road, who is mouthing something to him. The priest seems on edge and alarmed, so I would assume the other man is part of a secret from his past. Disappearing almost into thin air, perhaps the man is a ghost of sorts. Also, his sister questions him about a letter he has received from a married woman named Jessica Ridmark. He assures her that they are just friends, to which she responds by saying "that's what you said the first time". He doesn't strike me as the man-on-the-side type of guy, but there's clearly something going on there. The most likeable of leads needs some dark demons to make them even remotely human, so it's a smart move to give him some skeletons in his closet.

Although revealing that he did not actually hear God telling him to serve, Father Tomas seems to believe he has now heard the man upstairs by the end of the episode. I personally thought having the priest question his religion throughout the season would be an interesting plot narrative but this is pretty short lived. Maybe he will lose faith along the way, but I have a feeling his trust in God will be restored once the demon is inevitably dealt with. Currently though, he believes his purpose is to help the Rance family, who are plagued with a demon.

A seemingly ordinary family, the Rance family are a little more troubled and unfortunate than the average American family. Due to her husband's mental inabilities, the Rance family is run by mother Angela Rance. A respectable and religious woman, she has a tough life. Her husband, Henry (Alan Ruck), is recovering from a traumatic injury, her eldest daughter lost a friend in a car accident and has now returned home with an attitude problem, and Angela herself seems to have overcome mental health issues. We can later add the fact that her youngest daughter, Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is possessed to the list of Angela's troubles. Boy, does she need some good karma.

"There are voices, inside the walls"

Davis plays the role wonderfully. She comes across as strong enough to ultimately fight this negative force within her home, but vulnerable enough to make the journey interesting. I would argue that she's likeable; despite being criticised by her eldest daughter, she seems to be doing a pretty good job as a mother and wife.

Unlike Father Tomas, Angela does not immediately represent her counterpart in the original movie. They share some traits but ultimately Angela seems to share the role of Reagan (Linda Blair) with her two daughters. In the original you may recall that twelve year old Reagan is suspected of faking her possession in an attempt to force her mother to move the family back to L.A. People suspect she is making the whole thing up, and Angela is no different. She's the one who brings up the possibility of a demon being in the Rance home; nobody else in the house seems to care or think so. As already mentioned, she's coping with a lot in her life and it would make sense for her to delude herself in such a way. Katherine supports this, ranting to her sister that "she only climbs up on her cross when she wants some attention". It's evident in the closing minutes that Angela isn't crazy, but for the majority of the episode, this is up for debate. I can't help but wish they would've left the possibility open for a few more episodes, but I sense that they wanted to hook viewers straight away with an actual demon.

Angela's not the only one who's belief in demons is questioned though. In flashbacks, we see Father Marcus being scolded by Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) for attempting exorcisms. Father Marcus however believes so deeply in the power of such that he pulls a gun on his peer. Before fleeing, Father Bennett threatens that "Rome will not forgive this". I imagine that once you've seen a boy twist his head all the way around, you wouldn't really care what the Vatican thinks anyway.

"Marky boy, where are you lad?"
Speaking of the boy twisting his head, we later find out that this is all 18 months in the past, and took place in Mexico City. Father Marcus continued to care for the young boy, eventually performing an exorcism on him. Sweating like crazy and reciting a bunch of religious verses at the boy, the priest does very little than amuse the demon. The young boy soon dies, despite the Father Marcus' efforts, but not before he gets to convulse into a weird shape and twist his head all the way round. Gross but yet more paying homage to the original! The importance of the exorcism goes far beyond scaring, or amusing, the audience though.

Father Tomas, in the present day, begins having dreams where he is in the room with Father Marcus and the possessed young boy. These two priests who are opposites of one another, are thrust together by some divine providence, or perhaps a demonic force itself. One has dealt with demons and knows their power, whilst the other refers to them as nothing more than a metaphor. After a conversation with (a presumably possessed) Henry Rance, Father Tomas is given the whereabouts of the priest from his dreams. He finds Father Marcus and explains that himself, and the Rance family, need his help. The exorcist-loving priest rejects the other's pleas, only deciding to help as the episode comes to a close. At first I suspected that Father Tomas was having dreams about his own past, that he would turn out to be the possessed boy, and had forgotten about such an experience. The show does however state that it was only 18 months earlier, so "Gabriel" is obviously not a young Father Tomas.

Creepy shit always seems to happen in an attic. 
On the theme of what I suspected, although I did wonder if it would be Casey, not Katherine, who would be possessed, I hadn't really invested in the idea. Casey did seem a little off, and perhaps too nice, compared to Katherine, but I got caught up in the fear of the dark attic scene and I lost sight of this theory. I thought the twist was pretty well executed, and I was at least a little surprised when a deranged and possessed Casey came clawing her way at Father Tomas. The scene managed to pay homage to the original's attic scene by showing a rat as the supposed cause of the noises, but ultimately took it up a notch by actually having the demon make an appearance, albeit in the form of Casey. It was creepy, somewhat surprising, and a cool way to the end the episode.

Quote of the Week:
"God for future reference is not the one who works in mysterious ways; you're being manipulated, my friend, by forces you can't even begin to understand." - Father Marcus. This line for some reason stood out to me. It seemed like the type of quote which sets up the show. Father Tomas does not understand the forces against him, and so he needs Father Marcus' help.

Performer of the Week:
The entire cast were a delight to watch. In terms of who stood out most, I would have to say Alfonso Herrera. I'm usually very dubious of overly good characters (and people) but I genuinely believe Father Tomas wants to do good. I may end up being wrong, and there's some redemption aspect to his storyline, but for now, I really like this guy. Herrera is not only a handsome chap, but he's a talented actor too! 
As a horror movie fan, I was of course very sceptical of a show like this. Taking such an iconic movie and both modernising and serialising it is pretty risky. It may just be me, but I often feel that within the horror fandom, there's this unspoken rule that we should pretty much always prefer the original of everything. In some sense it feels as though we shouldn't even accommodate or like remakes or reboots etc all together. They often get slated for just having the audacity to imply the original isn't perfect. Well, forgive me fandom for I have sinned. I thoroughly enjoyed The Exorcist's first chapter and cannot wait to see where the show goes from here. Of course it doesn't touch on the original, but nobody will likely say it does. We can surely appreciate both, and by situating this in the same verse as the original, fans don't have to sacrifice one for the other. It's not a reboot, or a remake, it's a continuation; essentially a sequel. I'd summarise by saying that it pays homage to its predecessor(s), rather than pissing all over it like some sequels. Whilst I felt they tried to hook us a little too soon by ensuring viewers it is an actual case of possession, I will certainly still be tuning in every week. Depending on the ratings and reception, if this does receive a renewal, the format could work pretty well. A new family every season, with new famous faces leading the show. The common variable would likely be Father Tomas and/or Father Marcus - if they survive the first season, that is.

The Exorcist returns for Chapter Two next Friday on FOX, with more demonic drama going down. Let me know in the comments (and the poll) if you enjoyed the premiere or if you feel it should be banished to the underworld of cancelled shows.

About the Author - JOEL LEAVER
Joel is a British student who loves all things camp or horror. He is often obsessed with TV shows created by Ryan Murphy, and cites Glee as his favourite show of all time. His other favourite shows, not including those created by Ryan Murphy, include Scandal, Desperate Housewives, Game of Thrones, Scream the TV series, Nashville and Pretty Little Liars - to name just a few. During the 2016 - 2017 season, he will be reviewing Feud, Ransom, Scream Queens and The Exorcist. Feel free to contact him via Twitter.
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