TV reboots of classic films should be approached with great caution.
In recent years the US has produced some serious clangers by dredging up well-respected horror films – Scream: The TV series, for example – but well-received remakes of Hannibal and Bates’ Motel have provided enough cause for optimism for studios to continue to roll the dice.
The early signs for US Network Fox’s continuation of The Exorcist – which debuted its first season in the US last year, and is coming to Amazon Prime Video in the UK this October – were promising.
First and foremost, showrunner Jeremy Slater – one of the writers behind Netflix’s recent Death Note adaptation – made the canny decision not to re-tell the story from William Friedkin’s 1973 original, but to expand upon it with a new tale set in the present day. He then landed a bonafide star in Oscar-winner Geena Davis (Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise) as his leading lady.
However, the Exorcist is held in such high regard by devoted horror fans – BBC film critic Mark Kermode has seen it over 200 times – that the team behind the show faced an uphill battle in convincing punters of its right to exist. Even one of its stars, Ben Daniels, admitted that he initially turned down the role before reading the script, in the belief that any attempt at recreating the original would be a failure.
With this in mind, here’s everything we know so far about the Exorcist TV series.
Why has someone made a TV series out of The Exorcist?
It’s a film whose resonance has not diminished in the years since its release, despite its visual effects looking rather ludicrous in retrospect (sorry).
And, of course, there’s the logic that seems to be behind every remake – that the story worked once and already has a large fanbase, just begging to be tapped into.
In fairness to the producers of The Exorcist, they’ve clearly tried to do something a bit different here.
What is The Exorcist TV series about?
The show revolves around a case of demonic possession over 40 years after the events of the original.
Geena Davis stars as the mother of a young girl exhibiting odd behaviour, who calls upon the assistance of two priests, Father Thomas Ortega and Father Marcus Keane. These two troubled men of God – one plagued by doubts about his calling, the other haunted by a previous exorcism – are at the heart of the story, and their journey, along with the possession story, is a good enough reason to stay glued to your screens for the duration of the 10 episode series.
Is it any good?
By building upon the story told in Friedkin’s masterpiece, the show manages to avoid the pitfalls of most contemporary reboots, such as misrepresenting beloved characters or mishandling a well-told narrative.
Critical response in the US – where it is about to begin a new series which will see John Cho join the cast – has been predominantly positive. Check out some of the early responses to season one below.
“It doesn’t try to be the movie or outdo it in terms of fright factor, nor does it provide any reasons for mockery. It’s well-made, well-acted television, which is more than can be said for some of the reboots rolling out this fall” – The New York Times.
“The Exorcist is actually worth a look if you like scary things and have a penchant for scary familiar things you might want told a little differently and a little more deeply. The hour is scary enough but makes its biggest splash by demonstrating that it has plans to expand the worldview of the movie” – The Hollywood Reporter.
“Director Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) keeps the pilot chilly and drear, not overdoing the shocks and special effects. (Anyone who finds the going slow I would direct to the Friedkin film, which much of the time is positively mopey.) There are tense and spooky moments, to be sure” – The LA Times.
The Exorcist: Season 1 lands on Amazon Prime Video on 1st October