The Exorcist

TV review by
Edie Nugent, Common Sense Media
The Exorcist TV Poster Image
Demons and more scary stuff in uninspired but fun remake.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Though the series centers on the charity of two priests, its true aim is to terrify viewers using religious doctrine as a framework. At the center of the story is a woman fighting to hold her family together, but the odds are against them; they face powerful forces beyond human comprehension. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both Father Marcus and Father Tomas are somewhat noble in their attempts to save the possessed, but pride and arrogance play a part in their motivations. Angela is a devoted wife and mother who holds down a demanding job and supports her family. Her older daughter, Katherine, is disrespectful to both her mother and father, but she's under great emotional strain. Katherine and her sister Casey have a caring and close relationship.

Violence

Guns are used to threaten. Gruesome depictions of demonic possession, including a child who shatters his own teeth in anger and spits them onto the floor. Supernatural entities kill people, including children. A raven slams into a window, screaming and cutting its neck open. Brief pictures are shown of dead faces, one decomposed, the other strangled by a rope. 

Sex

A possible past affair is hinted at. 

Language

"Ass," "damn."

Consumerism

The series is based on one of the most successful horror films of all time, which also spawned several sequels. The original film is based on a best-selling book.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Exorcist is a horror drama series, aimed at a mature audience familiar with the 1973 movie of the same name. Like the film, the series doesn't lean heavily on gore or jump scares to unsettle viewers. Instead, it's the demonic possession of human victims -- mostly children and teens -- that terrify. Playing host to the entities takes its toll, evidenced by disturbing scenes of broken necks, distorted faces, and shattered teeth. Well-intentioned clergy and caring families don't provide much protection from the evil spirits, leading them to question their faith (and their sanity).

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What's the story?

In THE EXORCIST, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Hererra) is the dedicated, compassionate leader of a suburban church. When parishioner Angela Rance (Geena Davis) confronts him with her suspicions of a demonic presence in her home, he reluctantly investigates. At first, it appears that Angela's problems are quite ordinary. Her husband's (Alan Ruck) dementia strains familial bonds while her older daughter, Katherine (Brianne Howey), deals with survivor's guilt in the wake of a fatal car accident. Before Tomas can dismiss Angela's claims entirely, he receives what he believes to be a divine message, pointing him to Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels). Upon meeting him, Tomas realizes that Marcus' recent experience in failing to exorcize a demon from a little boy has been haunting his own dreams. When Tomas actually witnesses the demonic entity in Angela's house, Marcus is drawn to try to help him rid her family -- and the world -- of an evil that's responsible for both of the possessions. 

Is it any good?

This continuation of a tale that's already spawned two film sequels is well made and acted but doesn't offer anything new to audiences familiar with exorcism stories. In the 1973 film this series uses as a jumping-off point, audiences were shocked by the graphic depiction of a young girl's deterioration under demonic possession; critics were shocked that a horror film could be so well made. Over the years, The Exorcist has become even more revered. 

The shock value of the brief, but intense, possession scenes will probably hold appeal for teen fans of the horror genre. Geena Davis and Alan Ruck are both solid actors that elevate the pretty paint-by-numbers plot. These characters and their relationships with each other are the strongest part of the series, which does address issues of morality and responsibility. Younger viewers may find The Exorcist unsettling, as the demons primarily attack the young, and authority figures can't help as much as they'd like.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how conditions such as dementia and mental illness were once attributed to demonic possession. When did medical science finally reveal the real explanations for these afflictions? Why do people believe in the supernatural?

  • Families can also talk about watching scary TV shows and movies. Is it fun? Or does it give you nightmares? Why do different people respond differently to scary stuff?

TV details

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