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If the Exorcist fails, all Hell will break loose.
In this six-part miniseries, Martin Shaw (Judge John Deed) is Father Jacob, a Roman Catholic priest who examines evidence of miracles to promote candidates for sainthood. He is drawn into the domain of exorcism when he is approached for help by a young girl who believes her father is possessed. Besieged by ghastly visions, vicious murders and demonic attacks, Father Jacob wages war against evil with the only weapons he has - faith, ritual and prayer.
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Afterwards, I looked again at the glowing user reviews and tried to reconcile them to what I had seen. I could not. Especially puzzling is the opinion that the stories are "thought-provoking." Really? Consider the following exchange, taken verbatim (my comments in square brackets), from Episode 3.
Father Jacob (Martin Shaw), exorcist extraordinaire, is called to a prison to interview a convicted rapist named Cory who appears to be possessed by a woman. During the interview, Cory begins to sweat blood, a sure sign that demonic, or divine, powers are at work. (There's a fair amount of sweating and crying blood in the series-both by humans and by statues. But, hey, who among us hasn't encountered it?) Later, Cory is assaulted in the shower by a group of inmates. Afterwards, Father Jacob, the warden, and the prison priest discuss the possibly that Cory is possessed by a saint, and they speculate by which saint.
Warden: "What about suspects? How many saints are there?"
Father Jacob: "Ten thousand plus."
Warden: "Possession then. Any of them got form [a police record] on that?"
Father Jacob: "We're on our own there. There are no documented cases of saintly possession."
Warden: "What about saints and rapists?"
Father Jacob: "Maria Goretti is the patron saint of rape victims. She was murdered resisting a rape just over a hundred years ago."
Warden: "Was she a virgin?"
Father Jacob: [Nods] "She was eleven."
Warden: "Should we dig up some background on her and Cory, and see if there are any other connections?"
Father Jacob: "Cory was 20 when he was put behind bars. Maria Goretti's assailant, Alessandro Serenelli was also 20. Both gave their victims the same choice: lose your virginity or die. But Serenelli repented in prison. He attended Holy Communion with the victim's mother, and he went to her canonization. But Cory has never even admitted his guilt."
Warden: "Right. Well, that's what I'm saying. She takes over a guy who raped virgins; gets him raped [in prison] till he owns up."
Prison priest: "Does that sound like God? That is Satan making a mockery of everything we stand for!"
Father Jacob: "But if it is Maria Goretti, perhaps she's trying to get him to reconcile with his victims."
This scene cries out for Rod Serling, to step from the shadows, look into the camera, and address the audience. "Three seemingly intelligent adults discuss the possibility that an 11-year-old rape victim, 100 years dead, has taken possession of a convicted rapist, to provoke his rape in prison, forcing him to reconcile with his victims. These three men do not yet recognize that they're no longer in Kansas, or anywhere else on Planet Earth. They're in... The Twilight Zone."
On the positive side, production values are high; the settings are appropriately atmospheric; and the cast performs heroically in the face of some really bad dialogue. But none of this succeeds in elevating "Apparitions" above silliness.
There is a point when Cardinal Bukovak, who is trying to rein in Father Jacob, says of him: "I'm not denying his charisma. Exorcists are full of it." With his last point, the Cardinal has taken the words out of my mouth.
At another point when quoting Scripture, he refers to Revelation as "Revelations", which is a common layperson's mistake.
Even though I enjoy shows of this type, I wish the writers would do their religious homework and get the details right.