The Exorcist (2016-2017) tells the story of Angela (Geena Davis), a mother in a wealthy family overwhelmed by tragedy and issues: her husband Harry is recovering from serious brain damages, her older daughter Kat is dealing with a serious trauma and consequent depression and her younger daughter, Casey… well, she’s possessed by a vicious demon.
Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera), their community’s priest and “rising star” within the Church’s hierarchy, investigates on the case and tries to help the family go through their troubles, whilst being backed up by outcast exorcist Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels).
Meanwhile, a satanic cult – led by demons who reached the fully possession of their hosts – is trying to take over Chicago and kill the Pope in visit to the city.
Divided in 10 episodes, each one of them directed by a different person and based on the William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, The Exorcist is a sequel to the movie The Exorcist (1973). Which, mind you, I was completely unaware of, since I went into this series without knowing anything apart from the cast members.
So, if you have not seen it yet, I recommend you to go watch it immediately, without proceeding further in this review – which is going to contain minor spoilers and hints to the plot twists. I would only say that The Exorcist is probably the best horror series since AHS: Asylum (2012-2013).
As was made obvious since the synopsis of the series, Father Tomas and Father Marcus team up to defeat – i.e. exorcise – the demon that’s possessing Casey, which seems to have a grudge against Angela’s family.
The demon itself is an entity that horror fans got to know already 44 years ago: Pazuzu, who, after having haunted Regan MacNeil in the movie, is now craving for the Rance family’s souls in the TV series.
Pazuzu – masterfully played by Robert Emmet Lunney – is a pivotal character in the series and is given a backstory and in-depth explanation of his behaviour which make him a very compelling villain.
Thus, the series perfectly links to the original film, enriching the characters and providing different outlooks to the story.
Moreover, contrarily to many TV series, all the actors have been cast appropriately, with Ben Daniels and Hannah Kasulka being the standouts. Geena Davis instead, who plays Angela Rance, seems quite an unlikable and unreliable character throughout the first 5 episodes. However, once her motivations and backstory are revealed, she becomes arguably the best, most rounded character in the series and she carries along huge chunks of the plot in the final episodes.
The chemistry between Tomas and Marcus is also astounding. It reminds me of the contrasting relationship between Rust Cole and Marty Hart in True Detective (2013) – although such high levels of perfection could hardly be reached, in my opinion. Marcus (Ben Daniels) gives the required physicality to his role and avoids to going for the over-the-top route, which in some sequences must not have been easy.
Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is also a pleasant surprise: her character ranges from adorable and defenceless to unsettling and terrifying – in the first episode, for example, she’s absolutely frightening in the scene in the attic.
Despite the high-budget to their disposal, the directors decided to rely on CGI only in a few, minor scenes, whereas the practical effects and, especially, the makeup are always spot-on. Which is something worth-praising.
To be fair, I was a bit afraid when I’ve seen that every episode would have been directed by a different person. I thought the continuity could have suffered from it. Instead, the plot flows seamlessly and The Exorcist looks more like an 8-hour-long film than a series of 40-minute-long episodes.
Even though the series flows well, three episodes stand out in my opinion: the first one (captivating and suspenseful), the fifth (action-packed and intense) and the last (powerful, fulfilling and, surprisingly, emotional).
I can’t end this review, though, without mentioning the score: jaw-dropping! My ears were in pure delight listening to the remake of the original soundtrack from The Exorcist – the movie.
Overall, The Exorcist is an intense and satisfying ride that humbly pays homage to the film and novel of the same name. It also rarely holds back and combines horror elements (including bloody, violent and hyper-sexualised scenes) with intriguing sub-plots and interesting social commentaries, carried along altogether by a top-notch cast. Highly recommended. Cheers!