Fox has made an effective thriller in the first episode, but more needs to be done.
In 1971 a rather thick book by William Peter Blatty hit store shelves and effectively scared the pea soup out of the nation.
“The Exorcist” was a qualified bestseller and as with most popular novels that sell millions of copies, they get made into movies.
In 1973, director William Friedkin, still basking in the success of his thriller “The French Connection,” would tackle the novel about demonic possession and release it to the world.
Audiences watched the film in shock, some of them were hit on such a profound level with some of the scenes they either fainted, got sick, or left the theater entirely, never to visit the classic film again.
Fast-forward through three less-than-successful sequels to September 23, 2016 when the Fox Network premiered the first episode of television series “The Exorcist.”
By now audiences have become immune to the sticky gruel in horror-themed movies, or television shows. There is not much that can make people react as they did nearly 50 years ago, seeing a young girl twist her head completely around in one shot.
But this extension of the “The Exorcist,” doesn’t appear to be trying to shock its audience, yet.
In the premiere we see Angela Rance (Geena Davis), the mother of two daughters and wife to a man who looks like he is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
She is concerned that her oldest child is distancing herself from the world by taking too much refuge in her room with the curtains closed and refusing to eat.
To make matters worse, things in the house rattle constantly and she can hear disembodied voices coming from within the walls.
Convinced her home is being visited by a demon she turns to a young Father Thomas (Alfonso Herrera) from her church for help. From there things get a little more interesting because the Priest has some secrets of his own.
Unlike the reality-show-within-a-series “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” on Fox's sister station FX, “The Exorcist” takes the subject of the supernatural to more plausible territory mostly due to Davis' performance as Angela who is struggling with every aspect of her life.
Her nerves are shattered, but she manages to keep a smile on her face throughout.
The first episode sets things up rather quickly which is nice, but could lead to later episodes being more drawn out and dare I saw boring.
But for the most part this TV sequel of sorts, is effectively creepy, starting with horrific dreams which haunt Father Thomas every night about another Priest performing an Exorcism in Mexico that goes grotesquely wrong.
One of the things about these types of stories is the fight between God and the Devil. The latter trying to outsmart the former by leading people to believe He doesn’t exist.
However, The Divine isn’t as brash as the demons themselves and it appears he wants humanity to figure out how to deal with these monsters on their own by giving them subtle hints and serendipitous clues through ambiguous but terrifying interventions.
Fox’s series drapes a pall over the characters and allows the story to manifest by way of spooky music, gray illuminations and the fear of discovering your reality has been spiritually infected by a controlling malicious creature who wants to do nothing else but take a human host.
Further, these powers often manipulate and square off against each other taking mortals as collateral damage.
Another thing the series has in episode one is a twist. It’s a great one that you might not see coming, but it sets the tone for the series to play with the audience’s head a little more than it should.
Unlike the 1973 original, Fox’s “The Exorcist” isn’t going for the extreme just yet, in fact in the first episode the effects are things that are now second-nature to any horror aficionado, but may cause others to hide behind their hands.
This is especially true during the last fifteen minutes during a nerve-shattering sequence in the attic.
It remains to be seen if the series will travel down the road of stock shocks (there are a few in the premiere, one jolting example involves a window), or create a world that blends them into the fabric of uneasiness in human problems which the original did so well.
By the looks of it, they are planning to give audiences an intelligent haunt that is able to surprise, but moreover slip those bits of humanity into the fold to add a level of fear that penetrates the soul.
For now, the series opener manages to take what's familiar about the original and season it just enough to make it a nicely done haunter for the modern age.
I'll be watching.
“The Exorcist” airs Fridays on Fox.