Third-episode verdict: The Exorcist (US: Fox; UK: Syfy)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Wednesdays, 9pm, Syfy. Starts October 19

Three episodes into The Exorcist, Fox’s TV sequel to the classic 70s horror movie, and it’s becoming clear just how unclear the producers plans for it are.

The first episode was genuinely good, probably the best pilot of the 2016 season so far, being a properly scary piece of TV directed in the style of original director William Friedkin. Episode two, however, went in a completely different direction, taking in more modern horror movies and found footage-style horror, as well as all manner of daftness and a buddy-buddy style repartee between the two leads (Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels). It even inexplicably gave us a somewhat jaunty theme tune.

Episode three retreats somewhat from that tonal departure to give us something far more in the style of the first episode, with some disconcerting and upsetting moments of its own, but it still had some very odd qualities. Apparently deciding that you can’t have a slow, drip drip accumulation of evidence in this day and age, the producers decide to make the Devil’s plans so public, he might as well have taken out ad space on every billboard in Chicago. But at the same, they still want to retain some of the original’s shock moments, so that means teenage girls wetting themselves in front of everyone on train. I’m not sure that combination works, but there you go.

Meanwhile, despite the diabolical evidence mounting up on papal iPhones even as he pontificates, our goodies are personae non gratae with the Church. And as well as switching away from the disconcerting in favour of all out gore to obtain its shocks, the show decides to get at least some of its horrors from a touch of Mephistophelian paedophilia. At the same time, we have Daniels being marvellously naturalistic but also just a tad comedic, while ostensible star Geena Davis is nowhere to be found and Alan Ruck keeps passing out.

All in all, it’s just very unclear what The Exorcist is trying to be. It’s not really trying to provide cerebral shocks by slowly persuading you the Devil exists. It’s not really appealing to the heart, since too often it’s comedic. Sometimes it goes for the stomach, but that’s more sickening than anything else.

I’ll probably stick with it for another week at least, just to see if it sorts itself out, but The Exorcist has so far proven to be the biggest disappointment of the season so far after such a good start. I do hope I my faith is rewarded.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with a female lead? N/A
TMINE’s prediction: Likely to face cancellation by the end of the season

Author

  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.