Pazuzu attempts, one last time, to destroy Regan a.k.a Angela Rance and her family, too. Meanwhile, Pope Sebastian's arriving and his enemies are legion.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 9: “162”
Directed by Bill Johnson
Written by Franklin Jin Rho & Jeremy Slater
* For a review of Chapter Eight, “The Griefbearers” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Ten, “Three Rooms” – click here
With Chris MacNeil dead, where does the Rance family go from here? Angela (Geena Davis) tells her bullshit story while Pazuzu rules from inside. Henry (Alan Ruck) and Kat (Brianne Howey) don’t know much what to make of it, but it’s clear the demon works hard to cover things up. More than that, Superintendent Jaffey (Tim Hopper), possessed himself, is present. The demon in him recognises the one in Regan.
Then we see a flash to Regan, watching her daughter about to have her neck snapped. And time freezes: “Ah, together again,” says the Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney) as they become one after so long.
So what will we see from the demons, working in legion as a whole entity? Very interesting, and very troublesome.
Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is back at home. All the people are gone, only a memorial to Chris, discarded signs, candles remain. But we’re constantly seeing Regan become more ingratiated to the demon’s personality.
In other news, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) is forever on the case. He still has the help of Cherry and Lester Rego (Keira Naughton & Ken Marks). They’ve got a line on a bit of information concerning Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). Now they’re worried that if Bennett’s in trouble, which he is, then they may know about everything – Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan), the Rances, maybe even Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) and his involvement with it all. Speaking of Tomas, he’s having dinner with the Rance family, who are getting over the loss of their grandmother and the tumultuous times they’ve gone through as of late. At the table, Casey is incredibly quiet; her eyes speak volumes. And Kat, she notices the nonchalant way in which Angela tosses of her own mother’s death. Eerie few moments. Plus a little later Henry talks about hearing a lot of voices, murmuring in his head; the voices all mash together and repeat the number 162.
The Regos are out taking pictures of Brother Simon and they might’ve been spotted. Although the old priest heads on in to meet with the Superintendent of Police, Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), and others. Then? Pazuzu arrives. They talk of Father Merrin, plans for Pope Sebastian, so on. Looks as if Pazuzu is much more powerful than any of the other demons present. So powerful, he makes just about every one of them kneel; well, grovel to the floor on their bellies. He makes Simon kiss Regan’s shoes, too. They’re all in line finally, bearing down on the “sanctimonious whores” they’ll target next.
Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) talks with Father Tomas. He offers up a bigger position elsewhere, as well as the fact they’re closing St. Anthony’s, where Tomas has his parish. And it’s through this conversation the young priest tries divulging his recent sins. However, the bishop doesn’t exactly care too much. Most of all he wants Tomas and his prying ways out of their hair in Chicago. No matter if the priest has been unfaithful to his vows.
The ever sly Father Marcus is sneaking around in the back of the church while Tomas is out chatting. They discuss the pending transfer. But Marcus knows more. He advises “mind your back” and to keep an eye out. Then he’s called away by the Regos.
Casey’s recovering, although her mind weighs heavy. She still doesn’t seem herself even if Kat tries to treat her normally. She’s feeling guilty because of the dead paramedics, regardless if it was actually her doing the killing. “You survived,” Kat tries assuring her. Sometimes, though, that isn’t enough.
When Marcus gets back to see Cherry and Lester, he finds them dead. Bullet holes in them. He says a prayer over their corpses, searching the place for a few bullets to take with the gun. At the same time Mother Bernadette receives a visit from Angela: “We should‘ve killed you when we had a chance,” the nun says plainly. Thus follows the death of Bernadette, and who the hell knows what’ll happen to the other sisters who show up immediately afterwards. When Marcus gets there, he finds a massacre (note: a great instance of what sometimes we DON’T see is scarier than what we DO see).
At home, Angela talks to Casey about her possession. “At a certain point you asked for it,” mom tells her daughter. That’s so… gross. Pazuzu tries forming a bond between mother and daughter, though I can’t help feel like Casey’s going to start noticing there is something not quite right with mama.
There’s a big ceremony going on, Superintendent Jaffey, Mrs. Walters, Bishop Egan, Father Tomas, and all sorts of guests are present. Maria takes the stage to give a little speech for everybody. She speaks of Pope Sebastian and his ray of light amongst the darkness in Chicago. Everyone’s quite excited. Some, obviously, much more than others.
In bed, Angela and Henry get close for the first time in so long. Then she starts choking him, rough. To the point it isn’t remotely fun. I think, finally, Henry’s getting that something is wrong with his wife, more than ever. I worry for him, as well. Then there’s Casey – she witnesses Pazuzu in her mother, running hands all over Kat’s body in a sexual way. HOLY SHIT, that’s disturbing. The demon wants what he wants, and that’s it. Casey can see what’s happening. She knows.
Brother Simon sits in his suite, drinking, eating oysters and other tasty treats. Definitely not what you’d expect of a holy man; he sucks caviar from his fingers and laps it all up. Before Father Marcus barges his way inside, kicking the shit out of the old demon before filling a bathtub with water and a bit of sacramental salt. He dunks the demon’s face in, asking for more info. Except Brother Simon tells him about how the coming death of the Pope is inevitable: “Rome‘s shame, come full circle.”
Marcus is now at the mercy of Brother Simon – he’s got the bowl of ash out, the vocare pulvere dish. Is he going to try possessing Marcus?!?
Under cover of night, Casey gets Kat and her father ready. They’re leaving without Angela; the demon Pazuzu has her. But the demon wants a family meeting. Nobody’s going anywhere. Pazuzu and the girl formerly known as Regan have become fully integrated. Permanent possession. The demon then talks about their history, how God cast them all down after creating Man, et cetera. Turns out the demon is also going to have to hurt one of the family, to make sure they’re punished properly. And it’s Casey. Pazuzu chokes her until Tomas arrives: “Get the hell away from her.”
Oh shit! Another gorgeous, disturbing, compelling episode. As it’s been from the beginning.
The finale is next. Wow, I hope they give us another season. We need it. Last episode is titled “Three Rooms” and I’m not even able to imagine where it’ll take us. Hopefully FOX will renew the show, if not I’m sure Slater & Co. have a fun ending for the season to take us away.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 8: “The Griefbearers”
Directed by Louis Milito
Written by Marcus Gardley
* For a review of Chapter Seven, “Father of Lies” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Nine, “162” – click here
Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka) is still possessed, her body tortured, her mind even worse. Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) is trying to do the exorcism, and now Pazuzu comes face to face with Regan MacNeil (Geena Davis) a.k.a Angela Rance, who came with Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera). “Rags, bloody Rags,” the demon speaks to Angela. When Kat (Brianne Howey), Henry (Alan Ruck), and Chris MacNeil (Sharon Gless) arrive things get even more complicated. The demon lets Casey out long enough to haul them in. Taunting Kat about her dead lover, yikes. Then Pazuzu starts to toss the people around, and warns Angela about Casey’s new place in Hell: “There‘s room for you, too.”
Fathers Marcus and Tomas go about their exorcism, as Chris and the Rances wait outside. Finally a nice reference to Merrin in a quip from Henry. At the same time, Angela is staying strong to try making things easier for her family. Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan) is out trying to keep a lid on the media, as well as the police. Naturally everybody’s sniffing around.
Over with Cherry and Lester Rego we find Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) getting patched up after his encounter with the possessed homeless. They call the police on a burner to report the organs, too.
Continually we see Tomas and Marcus in each other’s faces. They resort to blows after insulting one another, all the while Bernadette is brought to her knees with the sound of flies swarming around them. Evil lurks around them all, as the demon laughs to itself at their fighting. So damn creepy, I love it. Marcus and Tomas know their best chance to fight the demon is to let Angela help. And she’s ready.
Despite the objections of Marcus, they let Angela into the room. He warns that if she starts feeling it poke around her head then they need to back off. “Hello, mommy,” says the demon. It gets going on everyone, taunting more all the time. Especially vulnerable is Tomas, who feels the pressure of the demon in his head. Angela does her best to distract her daughter, though Pazuzu keeps on talking. The worst is when it calls Angela out for having an abortion, saying she “scraped it out.” The priests and Angela come together telling the demon it is forgiven, hoping to use love against it. But will that work? I’m not so sure.
Bennett takes the pictures he took of the corpses to Cardinal Guillot (Torrey Hanson), as the news flashes about the police finding them in that warehouse. Will this Cardinal help, or is he another of the greasy Roman Catholic Church members in league with Maria Walters and Co?
Packing up to take off and hide awhile, Kat, Henry, and Chris argue over what happens next. They’re all on different pages, which is understandable. Even for all they’ve seen, Chris included, there is no rational way to react to the situation. Simultaneously, Casey suffers through the tortures of an exorcism, and Angela has a tough time watching what she’s already experienced so long ago.
Pazuzu makes it back up inside Angela’s mind. He takes her back to that house in Washington, D.C. Down in the old basement where Captain Howdy first spoke to Regan. She sees herself playing with the Ouija. If only she could replay that moment in time, do it all over. The Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney) returns, little red bird on his shoulder. This scene is written so well. Perfect, in fact. The way the Salesman speaks for Regan, the way he talks to Angela. There’s an incredibly tense bit of dialogue between him and Angela, which they both play impressively.
“Why me? Because you were under my foot, you stupid bitch.”
In the exorcism room things are going just as intense as ever. Angela makes it out of that old place in her head. Just in time to watch the demon start twisting itself into terrifying positions. Then it levitates, the chains break from Casey’s arms. And the evil washes away, as the girl returns to her mother. Have Marcus, Bernadette, and Tomas done away with Pazuzu for good this time? Oh, I wouldn’t get too cocky. Not just yet.
Out Casey goes to an ambulance, the media swarming. Angela prays that her daughter is finally safe from the demon. She and Tomas ride with the girl to the hospital, as police and others look on with proper scepticism, and Bernadette quells the crowd of hungry reporters.
A SWAT team busts in on a derelict apartment. A homeless man, possessed, sits in the dark. Crosses hang upside down from the ceiling everywhere. The man then blows his brains away after asking if they can “hear the angels.” Nasty.
In a bar Marcus and Tomas celebrate, drinking beers together, joking for the first time in far too long. I love these guys, separately and together. Two fascinating characters, well written and well acted. “To standing in the doorway and pushing back the night,” Marcus toasts. Their night ends a little earlier than he’d like when Tomas heads out. ON television we see that there’s a plan to assassinate the Pope, which drives Marcus elsewhere.
Cardinal Guillot and Father Bennett ride in a car together, as the former talks of the Church, and those who are no longer loyal to its goals. Just as I suspected, Bennett is tragically dispatched with a plastic bag over his head.
In church, Tomas finds Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) and her husband Jim (Andrew Rothenberg). Oh, that’s awkward. And not good, for anybody. He definitely isn’t pleased. He wants to know all about their affair. Jim says he’ll be reporting Tomas for his indiscretions, devastating both the priest and Jessica. I saw this coming a mile away, though hadn’t anticipated such a wild turn of events all the same. A rough turning point for Ortega.
Father Marcus begins piecing together bits and pieces of what is truly going on involving the possessed homeless. He may be onto something here.
Oh, and back at the Rance house with all the packing there are scarier revelations than anything else. Pazuzu, he found another way to carry on doing his dirty work. He’s made it back into Angela, after all these years. And when she calls her mother Chris a “little stinkpot” like Chris did to Regan back in her youth, grandma MacNeil gets her neck snapped backward, and the demon tosses her down the stairs.
Another fantastic episode. They, literally, keep on bringing the twists! So unbelievably excited for the two part finale. First up is “162” next. Let’s stay tuned together, and let’s make sure FOX renews this series for at least another season.
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
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.
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 – “Isn‘t 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.
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.
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.
Cronenberg and his body horror transform Vincent Price's original into remake heaven, as man's reach exceeds his grasp in this nasty modern classic.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee”
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Written by Jeremy Slater
* For a review of Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula” – click here
Here we are at the premiere of The Exorcist, a new series based on the classic from William Friedkin and based on the novel by William Peter Blatty.
We start on a familiar image, one of a man in a long coat and a brimmed hat walking, bag in hand, to some destination; it is Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels). In the distance are strange and unsettling noises.
In a brighter, more sunny place, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) gives a sermon to his congregation, which includes Angela and Henry Rance (Geena Davis & Alan Ruck), as well as their daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka). Off near the street outside after the service, Father Tomas sees a man who he believes is speaking to him, mouthing words. But when he talks to Angela a moment, turning back, the man is no longer there. At the same time, something seems off about Henry. In church he’s aloof, heading home he is distracted and not altogether there. Is headed for demons, possession and the like?
Ortega has issues of faith going on. Maybe. His sister Olivia (Camille Guaty) believes he doesn’t want to be a priest anymore, that he’s in love with a woman named Jessica. Of course, he denies it. Looking forward to more of that.
In Mexico City, Father Marcus sits disillusioned yet firm in that “the power‘s in the repetition.” Another priest, Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan), has come to try talking sense into him. Although he didn’t anticipate Marcus having a gun. There’s more to him, as we’re seeing a man of the church, a man of god whose path clearly strays from that of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. And why? What drove someone to take the vows of priesthood but then divert to his own method? On his own again, he tries to help the boy that’s been possessed at the moment. He prays, flicking holy water at the beast inside the boy, the one that speaks to Marcus by name.
Back at Casa del Rance, Angela hears odd noises, whispers in the walls. She shakes it off quickly, though something clearly bothered her. Then we find the other sister Catherine (Brianne Howey) upstairs, depressed, in her own world. So is dad going to get demonic? Or is it going to be Charlotte? Hmm.
Love the digital organ system that plagues the organist – the ancient church and its customs meet the modern world. More importantly, this takes Father Tomas downstairs into the dark basement for a little jump scare when Angela turns up looking for him. She’s worried for Catherine, saying there are “things going on in the house.” Such as furniture moved, books thrown all over the floor, voices in the walls. Y’know, standard haunting madness. Angela straight up believes a demon is trying to take Catherine. Father Tomas explains demons are a construct of the church, as a way to rationalise through “metaphors” in regards to mental illness, et cetera. But Mrs. Rance can’t take those answers. She knows better. Particularly once a bad omen flies into the window: a raven gets stuck and bloodied smashed through a crack in the glass. Nasty.
Ortega goes to see Catherine. She doesn’t put much stock into the thoughts of others. Not after losing someone close to her in a car accident. She’s merely in a depressed state after such an emotional trauma. Nevertheless, the family sits at the table eating along with Father Tomas, too. More and more we see the fact Henry is not who he was once. Catherine notices it, even if she’s the only one who says anything. I continue to believe he’s the one that’ll be possessed, one way or another. He gives Ortega an ominous sort of message about Father Marcus. This sets the young priest aflame wondering: who is this man? He has visions of Keane, the young boy’s possession, the exorcism. Until the boy jumps from his bonds, his neck twists around, and his spine breaks. Fuck, that’s vicious.
Father Tomas meets with a man called Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). He’s a little cryptic, offering up the supposed right question to be asking next: “What now, God?” Out of the corner of his eye, Tomas spies someone familiar. He follows the man to find it’s Father Marcus and tries to chat him up about demonic possession. However, the older man is pretty reluctant to say much. Finally though, Ortega gets more out of him and he reveals the circumstances of that possession Tomas dreamed. It seems that Father Marcus has become afraid of what lies beyond, as he’s seen it up close and personal, the damage it can do in the real world and not just in the spirit. His faith is quite broken.
Eventually Father Tomas goes to see Angela once more. They have a heart to heart about God, their faith, family. He’s driven by the pure faith in his heart to help the Rances in their distress, no matter what it is truly. Then, upstairs comes a noise, a scream from one of the girls. In the attic, Ortega finds Casey lurking, killing rats without touching them, moving in an extremely weird way. Once Angela turns the lights on, nothing is as it seemed a moment ago. Casey is fine. Nothing looks out of the ordinary. But one thing’s for certain, Father Tomas is shaken; badly. Great throwback in this sequence to old school music from Friedkin’s classic with “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield playing – we see Ortega walk off in the night, and simultaneously Father Marcus gears up, ready to take on this next possession.
I personally loved this premiere episode. It doesn’t remake the original film, it’s merely an extension, inspired by Blatty’s work. I say give it a chance! Next up is “Chapter Two: Lupus in Fabula” and I think it’ll bring some great stuff. Ben Daniels is a favourite of mine, so I look forward to what he brings. And you can’t go wrong with Geena Davis, either. Plenty we can expect from this series. Let’s see if it holds up in the second episode.
Beetlejuice. 1988. Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay by Michael McDowell & Warren Skaaren.
Starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Winona Ryder, Annie McEnroe, Glenn Shadix, Patrice Martinez, Sylvia Sidney, Robert Goulet, Dick Cavett, and Susan Kellermann. The Geffen Company. PG. 92 minutes.
Tim Burton doesn’t always appeal to everyone. His style, as far as I’m concerned, makes him an auteur. Even in his less cartoony, gothic-styled films, there is always an ever present sense of Burton and his unflinching vision of the stories he tells. Most of his movies I do enjoy, though, some I’m not huge on. Either way I can’t help deny my major love for a few of his movies.
One such title is the 1988 fantasy, quasi-horror, full-on comedy Beetlejuice, which later toned down into the 1989-1991 cartoon series of the same name. This is one strange piece of work, at the same time it’s amazingly near perfect in other ways. With a refreshingly innovative take on the afterlife, hauntings, the “life” of ghosts on the other side and tons of fun Burton-like imagery and makeup effects, this is one hell of a fun film. Beetlejuice has a bit of everything: death, suicide, laughs, calypso music and dancing, and Micheal Keaton.
After a tragic car accident, Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin/Geena Davis) find themselves back at their house… only a little removed from reality. They find a book in their attic – The Handbook for the Recently Deceased – and then eventually discover a way into the waiting room of the afterlife, where a case worker named Juno (Sylvia Sidney) explains they’ve died and are contracted to remain in their old home for many, many years. Tasked with scaring out the new owners – Charles and Delia Deetz (Jeffrey Jones/Catherine O’Hara) along with their young daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) – Adam and Barbara eventually come across an unethical ghost named Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) who would much rather kill the new owners than just scare them out. And once Betelgeuse sets his sight on Lydia to be his wife, the newly deceased couple have to decide whether they’re ready to give up their home, or give up the life of an innocent young girl.
So much to enjoy about this slice of Burton work.
One of my favourite sequences of the film happens early on when Adam (Baldwin) and Barbara (Davis) try to scare the new owners, before they’re initiated into the world of being dead. First, Barbara hangs herself in the closet, then rips the skin off her skull when Otho (Shadix) and Delia Deetz (O’Hara) look inside, yet to no avail. Then, Barbara stands – knife in hand – with Adam’s bloody, decapitated head in the other, trying to look sinister. Nothing works! But the kicker is when Adam tries to run up and lock the attic door, with no head, and he’s banging into things, bumping every object nearby. Riot, love it. Awesome few scenes here, especially in terms of makeup effects and horror imagery; the skin off skull bit is nasty and cool.
The waiting room scene is another perfect bit. We see the various dead people sitting around until their name is called: one man is a hunter of sorts, his head shrunken to a prune; another merely charred remains of a man smoking a cigarette; a guy who choked to death, chicken bone still sticking through both sides of his neck; an attendant showing patients in whose body is hung on strings, flattened out from tire tracks; and a man hung by the neck, on the same track as the other attendant, passing files off to a secretary while he’s carted about the office building. What a great and also tragic sequence. This is also part of why I’m so in love with Beetlejuice; because of its unique charm in the face of death.
Lydia: “My whole life is a dark room; one… big… dark… room.”
What I dig most about Beetlejuice overall is its take on the afterlife. On one hand, you’ve got all the “regular” ghosts who are merely regular people moving onto another plane. On the other hand, there’s Beetlejuice himself. But it’s the little handbook, for the recently deceased, the waiting room, the giant sandworms, and so on, which intrigues me. Such a neatly cartoonish and macabre world for Burton to play around in. At the same time, I find the way it portrays ghosts pretty unique. So underneath all Beetlejuice’s gnarly exterior and vulgarity, beneath the story of a haunting, there’s a genuine attempt here to dissect what a true afterlife might be – instead of the idealized heaven or hell, Burton’s film taps into a more satirical approach to being dead and trying to move on. Plus, seeing things from the side of the deceased doesn’t hurt either. While we’re right alongside the Deetz family, even in the scarier moments after the Juice runs loose, much of our perspective comes from Adam and Barbara, as well as later a similar yet different perspective from the still-living Lydia. All in all, the way this movie presents death and the afterlife is both hilarious and fresh.
There’s plenty of creepy horror stuff going on, but the dark and sometimes raunchy comedy is very much happening here. For instance, even in the morbid scene where Lydia (Ryder) contemplates her suicide writing a note for her family to find later, there’s a downright funny, laugh out loud moment as she rearranges the words, choosing better ones to put in place to make the note sound more appealing. The whole character of Lydia is fun and funny at once. She’s simultaneously deep and gothic while also playfully satirizing the whole goth lifestyle.
When it comes to comedy, though, obviously Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice is the centrepiece of this entire thing. Clearly, right? Even more than you think. For those who don’t remember properly, Beetlejuice is a dirty dude, both physically and in his speech. In the original screenplay, the character was much darker and more violent; he wanted to rape Lydia, here it’s toned down slightly to a creepy crush. But the darkness all around, from his actions to his comedy, is still quite present. Keaton brings Beetlejuice to life from one moment to the next. He’s mostly hilarious, yet always with the chilling side directly under the surface, every now and then coming out into the open fully. Some of my favourite bits are when Beetlejuice is still stuck in the tiny model town, in its cemetery; Keaton did a nice bit of improvisation, if I’m not mistaken, which is awesome because he did a great job with the character.
Beetlejuice: “I’m the ghost with the most, babe.”
Even with the changes inflicted upon the original screenplay, the toning down, the film’s finale remains pretty dark. Regardless of the cartoon-ish, at times, quality Burton gives the story and its visuals, there are equal amounts of very macabre and eerie sequences. When Beetlejuice is called back into reality by Lydia the final time, in order to try and save Adam/Barbara, the movie turns into a dark carnival. This section starts out in a sort of lighthearted horror-comedy way. Then, slowly, it moves towards treacherous territory, as Beetlejuice attempts to take Lydia as his bride. I mean, it’s sketchy! Very creepy, unsettling stuff. Delia’s sculptures come alive to hold the witnesses in place for their impromptu ceremony, which are super weird and gothic through Burton’s eyes. Just cannot get enough of this effective finale. Also, the very last couple scenes are a whole ton of fun capping things off on a more lighthearted ghost story note.
Totally a 4.5 out of 5 star film for me. Always loved this and truly feel it’s an effectively dark comedy using shades of horror in the best way. Plus, it’s a satirical look at the traditional ghost, which makes the comedy work that much better. Combining the eccentric talent of Tim Burton with a couple of great performances, namely Michael Keaton as the titular ghost with the most, Beetlejuice elevates itself from just another comedy to something near legendary.
I’m beyond excited there’s going to, hopefully, be a sequel with Burton, Keaton, and Ryder all supposedly onboard for the ride! With that team, as well as the spirit of the original at heart, I bet a sequel could be almost as spectacular this time around as it was the first. Watch this for Halloween; great to put on any time, but even better around the fall season as the 31st approaches on the calendar.