Philip Glenis­ter climbs into a dog col­lar to scare the spooks.

Robert Kirk­man’s Out­cast aims to do for ex­or­cisms what The Walk­ing Dead did for zom­bies. Joseph McCabe brings holy wa­ter to the show’s set…

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

It’s a balmy au­tumn af­ter­noon in sleepy Ch­ester, South Carolina. Like so many small Southern towns th­ese days, half the busi­nesses have shut down and those that re­main at­tract few cos­tumers. Down Ch­ester’s main street come two fig­ures – a mid­dle-aged min­is­ter and a younger, wideeyed man. They knock on the door of a local pet store, in­side of which lies a dead para­keet in a cage… and a shop­keeper who may or may not be pos­sessed by a de­mon.

What an ex­cel­lent day for an ex­or­cism.

For hor­ror fans, Robert Kirk­man’s The Walk­ing Dead is more than just a best­selling comic and a global tele­vi­sion phe­nom­e­non. It’s what made the world fall in love with zom­bies. But can Kirk­man’s Out­cast do the same for tales of de­monic pos­ses­sion? It’s a more spe­cific sub­genre, and one many would ar­gue hasn’t been given its due on screen since Linda Blair’s head spun like a top in Wil­liam Fried­kin’s 1973 shocker The Ex­or­cist.

“That movie,” laughs

Out­cast pro­ducer-di­rec­tor Howard Deutch when he speaks with SFX on the show’s set. “I needed to take a val­ium af­ter I saw it. I was young and I was like, ‘I’m never gonna be able to go to sleep!’ Even though her head spun around and she spat pea soup and all that shit, I be­lieved it be­cause of how they earned it. The whole idea, the whole fresh­ness of it. The faith, and good and evil, the char­ac­ters – Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sy­dow – all of it, it worked. It clearly worked.”

“And by the way,” he adds, “when the studio saw the movie, they weren’t gonna re­lease it. So it shows you what peo­ple know.”

Th­ese days they know bet­ter. As is ev­i­dent in the de­ci­sion to pro­duce a se­ries based on Kirk­man’s 2014 comic book about a young man, Kyle Barnes (played by Gone Girl’s Pa­trick Fugit), with the power to cast out the devil in oth­ers, but who strug­gles with the demons that have plagued him and his fam­ily since he was a small boy. In his search for peace, he part­ners with a wannabe re­li­gious healer, the Rev­erend An­der­son (Life On Mars’ Philip Glenis­ter), and the two em­bark on a mis­sion to put Kyle’s pow­ers to good use. In so do­ing, both men call into ques­tion their long-held in­di­vid­ual be­liefs.

“An­der­son,” ex­plains Deutch, “is selling him­self a bill of goods. He’s left his fam­ily and his own son, given ev­ery­thing up in his life to do God’s work. He dis­cov­ers, on this jour­ney of his, that he’s a fraud, that it’s not work­ing. That cri­sis of faith may be sym­bolic or rep­re­sen­ta­tive of how other peo­ple feel and it may not. But that’s a real is­sue for a lot of peo­ple. I don’t think we’re selling it one way or the other. He’s just a guy who’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing that.”

As for Kyle Barnes, “Pa­trick’s char­ac­ter never be­lieved for a sec­ond. He’s con­stantly a re­minder, be­cause he has the power, that it isn’t about faith. An­der­son be­comes de­pen­dent on Pa­trick, and re­sents that. Be­cause he thinks he’s the one who’s do­ing this, and he dis­cov­ers he’s not. He’s delu­sional. He re­fuses to ac­cept that his faith has let him down. A lot of peo­ple are like that. So it’s a re­ally rich area to ex­plore.”

Of Fugit, Deutch says, “It’s very dif­fi­cult to find an ac­tor who’s pure. There’s act­ing and then there’s chan­nelling and own­ing a char­ac­ter. He chan­nels this char­ac­ter. He doesn’t have to act it, he can be it. Be­cause in his back pocket he has this sense of good­ness. If you’re gonna cast a guy who’s gotta fight evil just by the essence of him, you couldn’t find a more per­fect can­di­date.”

DE­MONIC POW­ERS

Kyle’s pow­ers first emerged when his life was threat­ened by his own mother, her­self ap­par­ently driven by a de­mon. Af­ter ren­der­ing her cata­tonic, he was placed in a foster home. Now a grown man, he finds his­tory re­peat­ing it­self when his wife, and the mother of his child, at­tacked him.

“He has no sense of self-worth,” says Deutch of Kyle. “No sense of pur­pose and no feel­ing of

It’s scary as hell, but this show is about re­lat­ing to th­ese char­ac­ters

value. How would you feel if your own mother tried to kill you? He doesn’t even want to leave his house. He doesn’t want to get dressed. The only person that makes him feel like he’s wor­thy of any­thing is An­der­son. An­der­son is like a fa­ther fig­ure to him and makes him feel that maybe he has a chance to be some­body. Not no­body.

“On the other hand, An­der­son feels like he’s a rock star. He’s a pil­lar of the com­mu­nity. He’s got his church groupies, those old ladies who fol­low him ev­ery­where. He’s de­pen­dent on Kyle to ac­com­plish what he wants to ac­com­plish. So this dance they do is an in­ter­est­ing kind of re­la­tion­ship. It’s what I think is the best part of the show. It’s very com­pelling, and it’s rem­i­nis­cent of The X-Files’ Mul­der and Scully. It’s nitro and glyc­erin. It’s fire­works. That’s what I love about it. It’s not about spe­cial ef­fects, it’s not about the su­per­nat­u­ral. That’s a part of it.”

Deutch sees in Kirk­man a man as gen­uine as the char­ac­ters he cre­ates:

“Os­car Wilde used to say, ‘You might as well be your­self, be­cause ev­ery­body else is taken.’ It’s hard to just be your­self. But that’s what Robert Kirk­man re­minds me of – a guy who knows who he is. He’s from Ken­tucky, of pioneer stock, a mid­west­ern guy. It does not in any way in­ter­est him to be fa­mous at all. He’s a nerd. He’s a guy who writes th­ese char­ac­ters in his comics and that’s what he’s thrilled by.”

READY TO TREM­BLE

In the case of Out­cast, what ap­pears to thrill Kirk­man is the chance to ex­plore the roots of faith, and the di­chotomy be­tween those who be­lieve and those who don’t. All the while scar­ing au­di­ences sense­less.

“It doesn’t feel de­riv­a­tive,” Deutch as­sures us. “I know it’s not The Ex­or­cism Of Emily Rose and all that crap. But I don’t care whether it’s hor­ror or com­edy or a mu­si­cal, it’s about the writ­ing, the story, and the char­ac­ters. Then it can be a hor­ror, a com­edy, a ro­mance. But the trunk of the tree for me is the story and the char­ac­ters. Then the branches are the divi­sions and cat­e­gories.” A vet­eran of ’80s teen favourites like Pretty

In Pink and Some Kind Of Won­der­ful, Deutch has in­ad­ver­tently be­come some­thing of a hor­ror TV spe­cial­ist in re­cent years, hav­ing di­rected nu­mer­ous episodes of True Blood and Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story.

“I used to do Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story, which is shock­ing. I did them and I’m proud of them. It’s a great show, but their goal is to shock you... This show is not about shock­ing you. They’re gonna sell it like a hor­ror show, and it’s hor­rific – it’s scary as hell. But this show is about re­lat­ing to th­ese char­ac­ters.

“And then,” Deutch warns us, “you’ll get shocked.”

Out­cast airs on Fox from 7 June.

Even Banksy had to start some­where.

Will he be recit­ing “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”? Be­hind the scenes it wasn’t scary at all.

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