‘Scariest TV show ever’ is not for
Twenty-five years ago, Geena Davis bedded an unknown Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise. Now Davis stars in a new telly spinoff of The Exorcist, ‘‘maybe the scariest TV show ever made,’’ she tells Grant Smithies. ‘Every time we get the new script [for The Exoci
The credits rolled over a car snap-frozen in mid air, driving off a cliff into the Grand Canyon. As you shuffled out of the movie theatre though snowdrifts of spilt popcorn, you were left imagining twisted metal, broken bodies, a giant ball of flame.
It was a deliberate death plunge, but what other option did they have? The two women in the front seat had shot a rapist, robbed a store, torched a petrol tanker. The cops were right behind them, and they’d be in jail for a very long time if they got caught.
So they just kissed each other goodbye, pointed their 1966 Ford Thunderbird at the cliff and floored the accelerator.
The last time I saw Geena Davis on screen it was 1991, when she and Susan Sarandon co-starred in pioneering feminist road movie, Thelma & Louise.
Twenty-five years on, after dozens more movies and a recent run as a doctor on Grey’s Anatomy, Davis is coming to a TV near you tonight, determined to make you pee your pants.
‘‘Oh, yeah! This is probably the scariest TV show ever made,’’ she says by phone from California, her voice an unexpectedly deep drawl.
‘‘We’ve just shot episode five, and every time we get the new script, we go ‘Oh, my God! Noooo! People are gonna freak out!’ It just keeps getting more terrifying, but if you’re gonna make a show like this, you have to go full out or you might as well not bother.’’
Surrounded by a stellar cast that includes alumni of House Of Cards, The Chosen, Scream Queens and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Davis is the marquee movie star lead in the 10-part ‘‘psychological thriller’’, The Exorcist, which takes its inspiration from the 1973 movie of the same name.
Directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), the plot veers off in many unexpected directions, but the central themes – demonic possession, family distress, unbearably intense priests – remain.
Davis plays stressed-out businesswoman Angela Rance, a devout Catholic whose life is far from flash. Not only is her household reeling from recent family trauma, big black birds have started smashing through the windows like something out of Hitchcock, and the very walls have started muttering dark messages.
‘‘My character’s very concerned about her family, and it doesn’t help that the walls are talking, you know? That’s very stressful, when your walls start to talk! She starts to think there’s evil present and brings in a priest, but then things just get a whole lot worse. If you’re easily scared, you might not wanna watch it, to be honest.’’
Too true. Watching the pilot just reaffirmed that I’m too wimpy for shows like this. I don’t have the stomach for that atmosphere of spiritual malaise and gathering dread, even though I have zero belief in the supernatural. How about Davis?
‘‘As a kid, I really believed strongly in supernatural things. I was terrified that my dolls might start talking, and I used to watch things like The Twilight Zone and completely freak out. When I became an adult, I became more rational, like – that stuff just cannot be true – but I’ve become less dogmatic about that over time. I guess I’m somewhere in between now.’’
One cunning move with this new series was having two very different Catholic priests slugging it out with the septic spirits.
On the one hand, there’s the kind and compassionate Father Ortega (Alfonso Herrera), who represents the more modern and progressive face of the Catholic Church. And then you’ve got oldschool fire and brimstone merchant Father Keane (Ben Daniels), who sees each day as a life-and-death struggle with the devil.
Between them, there’s scope to explore more nuanced ideas about the nature of good and evil.
‘‘Absolutely. One is a renegade who’ll flaunt the teachings of Rome in a heartbeat, and the other’s very much on the straight and narrow.
‘‘It’s worth remembering, too, that exorcism is a rite of the Catholic church that’s still performed to this day. I wanted to ask – How can the church tell that they should get involved, rather than call a psychiatrist? But there are very specific criteria to qualify for an exorcism, apparently, and they’re not symptoms anyone can easily fake.’’
You’d be right in assuming that this is a series low on laughs. Nothing cuts the dramatic tension, not even slightly, not once. It’s a bleak scenario right from the start, with Davis’ character only just holding things together.
‘‘Oh, yeah! I have a very full plate, even before anything supernatural happens! I have a