From Religion

Nature’s Crucifixion by Capitalism in Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED

FIRST REFORMED shows how religious faith is affected - and destroyed - by the modern world. It also illustrates extremism exists in every facet of life.

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The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Five: “Through My Most Grievous Fault”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 5: “Through My Most Grievous Fault”
Directed by Jason Ensler
Written by David Grimm

* For a review of Chapter Four, “The Moveable Feast” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Five, “Star of the Morning” – click here
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A demonic confrontation is upon us!
Will the power of the Lord compel this evil force from young Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka)? Can Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) band together and do what’s necessary?
The two priests sit together on a stairway not unlike the one from William Friedkin’s original classic, the first adaptation of William Peter Blatty and his terrifying novel. Above the man, a dark sky brews in metaphorical turmoil.
Inside the Rance house, Kat (Brianne Howey) sleeps, as does her mother Angela (Alan Ruck & Geena Davis). Dear ole dad Henry (Alan Ruck) is up with his daughter, in the grip of her possession. She’s chained, starting to look pretty ghastly. Henry tries to pray over her and comfort what humanity is left. Suddenly Casey speaks to her father sweetly of a “secret” and asking if he’d like to hear: “Closer,” she says. Oh, no. She pulls him tight, as the demon whispers and tongues her father’s ear. Yuck – in the best horror way. Only afterwards Henry’s acting strange.
I wonder: what did that naughty demon say? I’m sure we’ll find out sooner than later. It’s starting to sow the seeds of distrust and paranoia amongst those closest to Casey.
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Poor Kat. She’s still heartbroken, in the throes of sadness and guilt at once. She leafs through all the memories of her lost love. That is, until the noises from the room next door begin. She hasn’t yet discovered the gruesome truth of all the exorcism talk. Angela isn’t having an easy go of it, either. She feels a ton of guilt, too. All the while she tries drowning out the noise of the priests doing their duty upstairs.
And what about upstairs? Father Marcus reels off prayer at the demon, who speaks directly to Father Tomas, calling him out for being “a liar” and ranting at them both in English and Latin alike. All prior to doing a few parlour tricks, like pulling out one of Casey’s toenails – “Isnt it wonderful?” asks the demon in creepy rhetorical fashion.
Henry isn’t acting normal. He starts talking a bit about God, asking whether she’s ever lied to him. She won’t answer, and it becomes clear there’s something she’s hidden. What is it, exactly?
The demon turns up the heat on Father Tomas, speaking as his grandmother from beyond the grave. He tries to resist, as Father Marcus advises not to “let it in your head.” But Ortega fights back, tossing holy water and trying to push against the unholiness. Then the flying act starts, and Casey’s body is tossed from one end of the room to the other. It won’t stop “till she gives me her rancid little soul,” spake the demon. Both priests know they’re in for a far large, more brutal fight than anticipated.

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That Salesman (Robert Emmet Lumney) is back, of course. Literally sitting on Casey’s chest; a perfect metaphor for the life being choked out of her. And he stresses to the girl: “Bring her to me!” So is the real target Casey, or is it Kat? Or maybe he’s just talking of Casey’s soul. Who knows. I just feel like there’s more to Kat and her personal story, that it’ll play into the overall story more relevantly eventually.
Tomas hears the voice of Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) calling him. You know it’s just the demon, imitating, twisting at the souls of others. Yet in the room is a vision of her. Can Tomas repel the “unclean spirit” on his own? No, he can’t, not on his own. Marcus isn’t happy with it, Tomas is compromised, and in the middle of it all Kat gets a shocking look at her sister lying on the floor. That can’t be good for anybody.
So again, it’s Father Marcus v. demon. The nasty voice of the tainted soul comes from Casey, taunting the excommunicated priest with everything in its arsenal. “Let the blood of Christ redeem you,” he yells, pressing that rosary against Casey’s forehead. From nowhere comes a vision of Marcus’ mother, speaking to him: “You was a mistake. You was never supposed to happen.” That’s fucking rough. Oh, and Marcus, his dad beat his mother’s brains out with a hammer. She continues saying terrible things to her son, the demon rants more. But it’s not enough to take him down to the demon’s level. At the same time, Father Tomas falls down the rabbit hole with Jessica – sexually; has the demon broken him completely?


Just as I guessed, Kat called the police. This is really going to turn things into diarrhea for everyone at the Rance house, Father Marcus included. Right before he can finish things the police break in, taking him away. And the demon plays up to the expectations of the medics, the police, making it all look appropriate. Another cog in the giant wheel of its game.
From the back of the ambulance Kat sees Casey – or the demon – smile right at her. Oh, great. You already know Casey won’t be making it to the hospital. That evil force all but obliterates the ambulance, leaving the paramedics bloody and dead. Sitting in jail, Marcus hears the news of it all on television. He deciphers something the demon told him: “He is coming.” Sound familiar? Yes, yes. The papal visit.
At home, Henry keeps prodding for truth from Angela. He urges her to confess. It all has something to do with that Bible he found in the closet, with the feather, the flowers. What does it mean? Did she cheat? Did she have an abortion? What is it?
Meanwhile, Father Tomas is worried for the sin he’s committed. He’s gone against his vows. He must repent. In church he comes across Angela, she too looking for forgiveness, trying to repent for her own sins. She tells him a bit about herself and that she had an “imaginary friend” who came in the form of a little red bird. She eventually became somebody else, moving away from her old life and getting far from her mother.


But guess what? Grandma’s back. The secret is out: Angela was Regan MacNeil! No way! DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. Shit.
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What an impressive twist to this episode. I cannot wait for the next chapter, this is wild. And to think, I thought it was some cheating or abortion story. She blew that out of the water.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Four: “The Moveable Feast”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Moveable Feast”
Directed by Craig Zisk
Written by Adam Stein

* For a review of Chapter Three, “Let ‘Em In” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Five, “Through My Most Grievous Fault” – click here
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After Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka) went wild on that young man in the subway, she’s treated to a day of happy, happy, happy – or is it a dream? – by her mother Angela (Geena Davis), as Kat (Brianne Howey) and their father Henry (Alan Ruck) wait at the table. She’s served a nasty meal of miscarried chicken fetuses. The Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney) shows up, too. Casey’s feet are held to the floor by a strange, evil-looking growth. They all want her to eat. “Why resist, darling?” asks the Salesman. She was sold a bill of goods that aren’t what they seemed in the beginning. Demonic possession ain’t all it’s cracked up to be! The demon needs permission to be let in. He doesn’t have it. Not quite yet. But it’s coming, whether Casey likes it or not.
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She’s stashed away in a psychiatric ward for 72 hours. Seeing as how she tore that dude apart on the train; not like he didn’t deserve it, the rapey bastard. Anyways, the Rance family are all struck dumb by everything that’s happened. Worried sick. Angela calls Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera), naturally, who gets to the hospital promptly. Angela knows there’s something very wrong with her daughter, and upset the church won’t help. How long until she forces the case into someone else’s hands? Well, the curling iron burns to Casey’s genitals make everybody a little more than nervous.
Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) is out rallying for his cause. He’s been given a short list of names to check out, suggested by Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan). He happens to spy a nun at one church with a suspicious injury on her face. Hmm. Then he finds that same nun – Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan) – in the midst of a circle of other sisters, in front of a possessed man in a hideous state. She stands up against the creature’s swiping at her, being pushed to the floor; Marcus nearly rushes in, although she gestures for him to stay put. Eventually, she brings the man and the demon inside him to her mercy, holding him against her chest a moment before laying him to the ground. A mysterious, powerful moment.
At the hospital, the Salesman talks to Casey about how “resistance” is ruining her beautiful face. She understands the trick behind all the seduction. However, now that she’s in pain there’s that temptation of letting go, falling headlong into the abyss. One thing’s for sure: that Salesman is god damn unnerving, every time he’s onscreen.

 

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Riding around Chicago on a Serial Killer Tour bus, Father Marcus is still curious about the latest murders, the organs and limbs and various human bits taken by people into the night. He’s worried for whatever is coming.
The Rances try hard to get through their predicament. Henry comforts his wife saying he’ll do what’s necessary to help their daughter. We’ll see if the help comes from Father Tomas or Marcus. I’m betting the latter. Because Tomas is busy with Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), trying to do a bit of political-type leaning in order to get higher permission for an exorcism. When I imagine Marcus would probably just go for it. Such are the benefits of excommunication, I guess. But Father Tomas, he has the will. He bones up on his study of exorcisms. Right as his almost more than friend Jessica (Mouzam Makkar). She’s found that her husband has been being unfaithful to her. Oh, my. Something else to conflict Tomas, as he wrestles with the most extreme lengths of his Catholic faith.
Over in a trailer someplace, Father Marcus sits with the tour bus guides Lester and Cherry Rego. The know Bennett, it turns out. “An exorcist with a gun,” the priest calls himself. “Evils a moveable feast,” says Lester once they get down to talking business. The Chicago crime rate is brought into the concept of evil touching down in the heartland of America. So, the body parts, “vocare pulvere” the “Ceremony of Ash” and all that comes into play.
Casey has it worse and worse by the minute at the hospital, her condition seemingly out of control. Except the Salesman comes back talking to her about nasty things. There’s no escape for her.

 

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Finally, Father Marcus meets Mother Bernadette, whose humour is much better than you’d expect. They’re both pretty sly characters, I love it. Their chat circles around, of course, the act of exorcism. She knows Father Bennett, but likewise understands the plight of Marcus, as well as that of the Holy Father and his looming visit. Possession cases, like crime, are heading up, up, up. Bernadette suggests Marcus doesn’t need to necessarily follow all the rules. Rather, he must take his ego out of the picture a little more.
Kat’s not happy about her sister being prepped for exorcism. Even Henry, after the train in the last episode, is on board. Although I worry about Tomas hoping to “unofficially” take care of things. He might botch it, and who knows what that’ll do. Speaking of exorcisms, Father Marcus is in the middle of the nun circle, face to face with that possessed man. He brings the demon into an embrace: “You are redeemed. You are loved.” He learns of a new approach in the fight against the devil’s legions. One with a slightly more feminine touch out of Bernadette’s handbook that just might give him the edge he needs in the battles to come.
Continually Casey is taunted by the Salesman, to let the demons inside. He chokes one of the nurses, insisting she give in and say the word. She nearly does before Angela barges in. For now the Salesman recedes. He’s not gone, only in the background again for a moment. Casey’s let out of the hospital. He’ll be back.

 

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With Father Marcus refreshed in the concept of exorcism, he heads back to see Father Tomas, who keeps on studying. Better than that the younger priest asks for help. He doesn’t care anymore about the rules of the church, and is willing to go all the way to help Casey. So now there’s two renegade bad asses ready to take on the devil. They prepare themselves a proper room with restraints, boards nailed with coverings in the windows, all kinds of things to make Casey’s room in the Rance house suitable for exorcism.
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Can’t wait to see what happens next. Chapter Five “Through My Most Grievous Fault” ought to be quite a trip!

THE SEVENTH SIGN’s Psychological Book of Revelations Horror

Need a dose apocalyptic, biblical horror?

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The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”
Directed by Michael Nankin
Written by Heather Bellson

* For a review of Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Three: “Let ‘Em In” – click here
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Young boys in a dark room are ordered around by a nasty man with a thick Irish brogue. One of them is lead down into a darker part of the large basement, in whatever building they’re stowed away. The kid takes a Holy Bible with him into a long tunnel-like corridor. At the end is a man plagued by a demon possessing him.
Cut to Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) – that was little Marcus, back in the early days. Oh, I love the intrigue! In his own personal Bible, he annotates various sections. By the look of it he’s quite the devout man in his older age. Or is he merely a man trying to figure life out? Likely both. He’s troubled though, that’s more than evident.
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Angela Rance (Geena Davis) is having trouble, too. Her daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is speaking in an eerie voice, sitting alone in the dark. Whatever demon that’s possessed her is a pervert, as it turns out. And he warns Casey about her “lying, sneaking mother.” One of the creepiest scenes yet, if not the creepiest.
Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is talking with Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) about whether he might be able to conduct an exorcism. Obviously that goes over like a fart in church (appropriate joke). The modern day Catholic Church clearly looks down on all that old demon and hellfire nonsense they once preached. Ah, the ever shifting plague of Catholicism.
Meanwhile, Angela’s out keeping up appearances because that’s clearly the type of family she and space case husband Henry (Alan Ruck) have together. There’s a looming visit for Pope Sebastian on the horizon. A perfect addition for any horror, particularly one involving demons. Speaking of which, Casey calls mom in a speechless panic. At home upstairs, mom finds no Casey. The family gets home and things are feeling confused. Gets worse when they uncover a sickly nest of centipedes squirming around on Casey’s sheets. The beginning signs of evil.

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Father Marcus has broken into Father Tomas’ place. A man of many talents. Love how the difference between these two men couldn’t be more vast, as is explained easily with this harmless little act of breaking-and-entering. So it seems Keane is back in the game. He lets Father Tomas in on what’s happening with the demon, or what’s soon to happen. The guy’s definitely seen his share of shit. But there’s also Tomas, his pen pal relationship (and possibly more) with a woman named Jessica; who is she? Makes Keane, and us, very curious. Turns out there was a brief relationship of sorts before he took his vows. All Father Marcus is trying to make clear is that the demon can tell everything. It will use all of it against them.
During a lacrosse game, Casey sees an old man (Robert Emmet Lunney) wave to her in the stands. On the field she has a run in with a particular player, after which she turns into… someone else. She focuses on the other player whose leg soon snaps. Spooky.
At home the family is playing Jenga and having a laugh together. Except things take a turn when Angela lets slip her ideas about what’s going on with Casey. And the demon’s ready to play.
The next day at the church, Angela pleads with Father Tomas to get things moving. He’s reluctant because of what Bishop Egan said. They want more psychiatric evidence about what could be going on with the girl. Trying to snatch up a bit of holy water the mother winds up talking to Father Marcus. He happily gives out a bit of advice on the sly. “God helps those who help themselves, right?” he quips; a Ben Franklin quote. In the food line at church, the man with the messed up scalp from last episode goes up to Casey, speaking about her being chosen and then calling out: “Let me touch you.” He also makes Father Marcus double-take back to his childhood in the dark tunnel.
Tomas goes to meet with Jessica (Mouzam Makkar). There’s obviously a deeper connection between them than a platonic relationship. Her marriage is crumbling. His faith slips a little each time they communicate. He’s tempted by her, but that goes against his vows. So much conflict inside him. Nicely juxtaposed, though. He’s questioning his faith due to this woman, as well as coming up against something that absolutely represents the fact of his faith as reality: demonic possession.
Then there’s Father Marcus. He looks for the homeless man from the church, only to find another possessed wretch claiming he’s “the one we feared until you lost that little boy.” That oh so famous line comes out, only to get the reply: “Do I look compelled, man of God?” It mocks Marcus and his faith before leaving.

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At home, Angela and the family sit to eat. She apologises for being distracted lately and for lashing out emotionally in the wrong ways. She tries slipping the holy water into Casey’s drink, watching eagerly for its effects. Nothing happens while they sit around the table, which makes Angela feel at ease. But the demon rushes off quick when it can so that Casey can puke up that slimy green stuff. Plus haul a centipede out of her throat. Yikes. Possession is rough.
Later that night outside, the man from the lacrosse game tells her that a “glorious seed” is “breaching the soil.” He sits with her, Casey tells him everything. Clueless father Henry watches from the window to see nobody is actually there.
Father Tomas goes through Marcus’ things to repay the favour. When the older priest arrives, he’s a bit surprises, probably not expecting it from the younger man. Tomas is troubled, but Marcus assures: “Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” which is in part the Latin from where this episode’s title derives. Marcus reveals his father murdered his mother in front of him. He was later sold to the church for “five quid.” That’s how he ended up being 12, locked in a dark room with a demon-possessed man. But instead of feeling fear as that lonely little boy, he felt he’d discovered his purpose in life. Through this conversation Tomas and Marcus come to terms on themselves, as well as each other.
Note the amazing performance from Ben Daniels, a fabulous actor; he takes the material and lifts it off the page magically.

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In another part of the city an apartment of people are murdered. Their organs are put into containers and men take them away, joined on the street by the homeless man, and others, all carrying similar containers and loading them into a truck before heading out. “A mass homicide,” as it’s called on the news. Father Marcus listens to this and finds it suspicious, wondering if there’s more to it. The billboard advertising Pope Sebastian’s visit looms large in the street, the slogan HE IS COMING feeling prophetic in many ways.

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A fabulous follow-up to the premiere episode. Some interesting bits that I’m looking forward to watching play out over the next episodes. I like that they’re not going too hard and putting everything out there. While you can see where things are headed, there’s still a great bit of mystery involved.
Next episode is titled “Let ‘Em In” – hope they let Father Marcus loose, because you know he’s a wild one.