There’s something sinister and intriguing awaiting the viewer at the end of the first episode of The Exorcist, which follows on 40 years after the events of William Friedkin’s 1973 film. But first, some introductions need to be made to the characters, though it’s a shame they all feel slightly awkward.
Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) is an old hand at exorcisms and we first meet him in Mexico City carrying out his work. He’s presented as a rule-breaking bad boy who flees to a sanctuary when things turn grisly.
Meanwhile, Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) is struggling with past misdeeds when he starts to have visions of Marcus’ exorcism on a young boy. The prosthetics in these scenes are gruesomely rendered but the focus in this episode is in building atmosphere which Wyatt does well with some low lighting and menacing sound effects.
Tomas runs a parish in Chicago and when asked for help by Angela Rance (Geena Davis) he obliges, but only after a raven flies into his office window. Angela is worried about her daughter who is grieving for a friend and is driven to seek advice after she hears demonic voices in her house. When Ortega comes to investigate Wyatt employs contrived jumps scares and some J-horror style special effects.
At this point the horror elements start to grate with one cliché after another being thrown at you. What does impress however is the strong cast with Daniels, Davis and Herrera all turning in convincing performances.
Screenwriter Jeremy Slater does decent work in building enough back story behind his two leading male characters without giving too much away and in setting the scene for them to clash in their approaches to religion and exorcism. By the time Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells kicks in at the end you should be invested in where this story is going.