Alibi V.25 No.22 • June 2-8, 2016 

Idiot Box

Exorcist Too

“Outcast” on Cinemax

Comic book creator Robert Kirkman has made a pretty penny off AMC’s adaptation of his zombie epic The Walking Dead. And vice-versa. So it’s no surprise to see some of the writer’s lesser-known works making the leap from page to screen. Now Showtime has grabbed the rights to Kirkman’s other Image Comics series Outcast, adding another chapter to TV’s ongoing renaissance of supernatural chillers and contributing a couple more well-deserved bucks to Kirkman’s bank account.

“Outcast” plays in the seediest of Southern Gothic settings—all peeling paint and bleeding shadows. In the small town of Rome, West Virginia, we meet Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit from Almost Famous and Gone Girl). Kyle is hiding out in his parents’ abandoned, rundown dump of a house, doing his best to shut out the world at large. He’s evidently had a rough life—starting with the fact that his mother was violently abusive to him as a kid. His adoptive sister (Wrenn Schmidt from “Boardwalk Empire”) does her best to keep him showering and eating, but it’s starting to look like a lost cause.

At the end of his rope and desperate for answers, Kyle hunts down Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister from the BBC’s “Life on Mars”), the no-nonsense evangelical minister who advised him as a child that his mother wasn’t mentally ill—just possessed by some nasty demons. Kyle has never bought into that story, but he’s clearly spent the last few decades battling a lot of metaphorical demons. Anderson, on the other hand, firmly believes he’s fighting a holy war against Earth's evil forces. And when Kyle gets roped into an exorcism involving a troubled young boy, his past rushes forward to meet him head-on, giving some tangible credence to Anderson’s theories about the paranormal forces behind our protagonist’s troubles.

The first episode of “Outcast” is directed by up-and-coming horror auteur Adam Wingard (The ABCs of Death, The Guest, You’re Next), who also serves as the show’s “creative consultant.” The story is a slow-builder, concentrating heavily on atmosphere and on the sad psychological condition of our walking zombie of a main character. Even so, the show isn’t afraid to goose audiences with some gross-out shocks.

Tales of exorcism in today’s cheap, shot-on-digital horror movie industry are a dime a dozen (The Last Exorcism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Devil Inside, The Rite, The Vatican Tapes). But “Outcast” hints at a bigger, more epic tale of supernatural doom and gloom. What are these hellish forces surrounding Kyle? And why does he appear unusually equipped to deal with them? What on the likes of The CW would be just another “hunky guys battle the monster of the week” show is looking like a grimly humorless walk in the dark with plenty of realistic drama and just enough grisly jolts to keep you awake at night. In other words: It looks like one of Kirkman’s.

“Outcast” premieres Friday, June 3, at 8pm on Cinemax.