WASHINGTON, September 28, 2016 — Two very different priests encounter demonic possession on the new Fox series “The Exorcist” that premiered September 23. The new series reboots the classic, eponymous 1973 horror film that featured Linda Blair in the head-turning role as the demonically possessed girl in need of some help.
Set in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., the original film was based on a 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty. The novel was a fictionalized treatment of an actual or apparent 1949 case of demonic possession that had occurred in and around that locale. The new series largely transfers the action to Chicago.
Then, as now, the viewer, as is the priest, is asked: Do demons really exist?
In the Fox reboot, the young Catholic priest, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) preaches about faith and redemption to his ever dwindling Chicago congregation. He recounts the New Testament story of Christ walking on water, and how the Apostle Peter leaves the safety of his boat to join him.
He says everything is going well until St. Peter looks down and sees only water beneath his feet. As his faith breaks, he begins to sink.
“It’s okay to have doubt,” Father Ortega tells his flock. “It’s okay to have questions. God wants you to find your own way. But sometimes, every now and then, God gives you a job to do. And when that happens, you have to drop everything and just start walking.”
Meanwhile, down in Mexico, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) is practicing what Ortega preaches. Through the evening darkness, Marcus walks narrow streets leading to a hilltop tenement.
Light shines from a single window.
As the man in black continues his climb, weighed down by a briefcase filled with sacred objects and a liturgical manual, observers dip back into the shadows or draw their curtains. A pack of threatening, feral dogs snarl and yowl.
From the hilltop above come the tormented screams of a child, which soon modulate into deep, guttural howls complementing those of the wailing hounds.
Exorcist Keane has found a soul in torment.
Keane, we discover, is so intent to wage war on hell’s minions, he won’t allow his superiors in Rome to interfere. When a representative from the Vatican attempts to end the exorcism—proclaiming “This is so far beyond protocol”—and insists the child be remanded into the care of a local hospital, Keane pulls a handgun and points it at him.
“You would shoot me?” asks the priest from Rome.
“Without hesitation,” insists Keane. “That boy needs my help. I won’t abandon him.”
But the demon possessing the young boy is unimpressed by Keane’s dedication and more than a little amused by his hubris. It proves that its power to torment extends beyond the young victim, even to those brave souls who would banish the beast from this world.
Heading North to Chicago, businesswoman Angela Rance (Gina Davis) has noticed that her daughter—on leave from college after surviving a car accident in which her friend was killed—is not quite herself. And there is more.
When she meets with Father Ortega, Angela says,
“There are strange things going on in the house. My house. I come down in the morning and all the chairs have been moved away from the table. Or the bookshelves – all of the books are on the floor… There are voices inside the walls.”
Father Ortega insists there must be rational explanations for these events, but Angela won’t stand for it. “It’s a demon,” she blurts out, “And it’s trying to take my daughter.”
Ortega is slow and deliberate in his council to a worried parishioner,
“Angela, demons aren’t real. They are an invention of the Church to explain things like addiction, mental illness. There are no monsters or creatures. Demons are metaphors.”
“Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to sit here and sound like this?” says the exasperated Angela. “But I am telling you something is going on. There is a presence and I feel it. I’m not even trying to convince you to believe me. Just come to the house.”
Father Ortega comes to realize that the encounter with Angela is more than a coincidence when a series of dreams makes him an unwilling eyewitness to Father Marcus’s failed and horrific exorcism in Mexico. It’s a frightening foretaste of what awaits him in a parishioner’s home.
Fighting that malevolent presence will require Ortega to employ an ancient Church rite with the help of Father Marcus Keane: Exorcist.
Here’s Fox Network’s official trailer for “The Exorcist.”
Let the horror begin:
Fridays on Fox
8:00 central / 9:00 ET