The Exorcist – There But for the Grace of God, Go I
By: Maggie Stankiewicz
There is an eerie stillness on Andrew Kim’s land, the stagnant air overlapping to form opaque pockets of fog across the group home’s property. As the scene cuts to the interior of Andy’s home, within Grace’s bedroom, it’s clear to see that the uncomfortable edge will only sharpen. Andy (John Cho) stands at the threshold of Grace’s door, encouraging her to come outside with him. Grace (Amélie Eve) is sitting on the bed raising her index finger to her lips, miming to Andy that it’s time to be silent. Andy’s face falls with concern and he catches a glimpse of Verity (Brianna Hildebrand) in the corner. “Who are you talking to?” Verity probes. Andy looks back to the bed. Grace has disappeared. He attempts to deflect her questions, but she stands steadfast and true in her pursuit of the truth. Andy blinks, taking another look around the room. Grace’s bedroom, once lively and full of light, has dimmed. Shadows are cast where light once shined, and he realizes that his perfect illusion has shattered.
The walls are adorned with artwork and scribbles, a shine to nameless, faceless people. Verity asks Andy if he’s okay, but we all know that he isn’t. Food is molding on the floor, a painting of an owl watches over the room. Verity continues to check in with her foster father asking if this room has to do with his late wife. He snaps at her now, demanding that she leave for she has no business in there with him. Verity retreats. As she does so a wasp stings Andy in the chest. The lights flash back on and the room returns to its initial state – Grace’s bedroom. In the blink of an eye, Grace is standing behind Andy. He’s come to his senses now and flees, telling the specter of a child that she’s not real.
Andy takes the logical approach to a psychotic break and suggests to Rose (Li Jun Li) that the family take an impromptu camping trip. He admits to her that it’s the 14th anniversary of the day he asked his wife to marry him. She sympathizes with him, but isn’t sure that the excursion will be helpful to Harper who is still settling in. Grace materializes behind Rose. Andy looks at the non-existent young girl and insists that the trip will be good for everyone.
Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) knocks on the group home’s door and is greeted by an unwelcoming Verity. She summons Rose at his request and they head to the kitchen for some coffee (or tea) to discuss the possibility of a demon running rampant within the home. Rose is a skeptic, suggesting that the devil doesn’t need to be present in order for humans to commit atrocities. He understands this, but cannot ignore the sinister sensations he experiences while on the property. Father Tomas wishes to speak with the children about otherworldly activity, but Rose dismisses him to prevent the children from enduring any more emotional trauma.
Elsewhere on the property, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Peter (Christopher Cousins) strike up a conversation shore side. They enjoy a lighthearted conversation on the island’s past history of inexplicable violence. Mysterious mass murders, the stuff of light flirtatious banter. Marcus asks about the sole survivor of a mass murder that occurred in the 1950’s and Peter offers to take Marcus across the bay to visit her on his boat. Marcus accepts and they go on their merry way.
Inside the house, Andy tries and fails to ignore his vivid hallucinations of Grace. The little girl asks why he’s ignoring her, warning him to be careful. As punishment for his actions, Andy suffers a pang of pain in his chest where the hornet stung him. He opens his shirt to reveal honeycomb embedded in his pectoral, the stuff of a trypophobic’s nightmare.
Marcus sits in the garden of a nursing home with the surviving daughter of the island’s mass murderer. The woman, still lucid, explains that the father she knew wouldn’t have harmed anyone. She claims that the man who killed her family was simply a being who looked like her father…and Marcus believes her. His case against the island’s demonic presence grows as she describes her “father’s” voice, a different vocal register, speaking in tongues. A textbook possession.
Andy has won the debate over whether or not to go camping. One by one, Truck (Cyrus Arnold), Shelby (Alex Barima), Verity, Caleb (Hunter Dillon) and Harper (Beatrice Kitsos) descend the staircase and collect their gear. They exit the house with Rose, leaving Andy alone inside…except he’s not alone. An enraged Grace is perched on a stair, scowling at Andy. He denies her presence and slams the door shut.
Crossing the globe to Belgium, Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) and Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) work around Sister Dolores (Karin Konoval), praying and packing up to catch a plane. Mouse insists that Bennett’s attempts at praying for Dolores are futile, she has integrated. He argues that Tomas brought Regan back from the brink of integration…but it’s no use. The demon inside Dolores is manipulating Bennett – or at least trying to…until he kills her. Her body falls to the ground, combusting, burning on the stone floor.
The kids sit around a wholesome camp fire and exchange friendly banter. Rose supervises, keeping a close eye on Harper who admits that she hopes she can stay with Andy. Verity’s earlier kindness seems to have made a lasting impression on her. Andy is alone in the woods – at least he thinks he is. Grace appears behind him to whisper, “Come home, Daddy.” He accuses her of being a stress related delusion, a mental break – but the little girl’s sinister expression suggests she might be something more. Rose interrupts their private conversation, and Andy breaks down. He tells her that he’s not okay after his wife’s death. She comforts him, but doesn’t understand the severity of his mental state. They embrace, but it’s difficult to focus on her comforting words with Grace leering at them from between the trees. The angrier Grace becomes, the more pain Andy feels in his chest. Coincidence? I think not.
It’s become clear now that Grace is not a human, nor is she a mental break. She is a child of the damned and she’s out for blood now that Andy has snapped out of the delusion. In a demented game of duck, duck, goose, Grace circles the children who sit around the campfire looking for her next plaything. Truck stares into the fire, but there’s nothing in his eyes. Grace may be driving this Truck for now.
Father Tomas enters the empty home of Andy in search of Rose, but finds more than he bargained for. The walls of the house rattle and growl with the conviction of a demon looking to terrorize, and Tomas looks terrified.
Father Marcus and Peter are having a much better time than Tomas as they return back to the island. Peter cuts the engine of his boat to engage Marcus in a conversation that Marcus never knew he needed. They discuss the existential struggles of being a lion without a pride, of the terrors they’ve seen and all that they’ve lost. Marcus releases the pain he’s been harboring deep inside of himself for years, the nightmares in his head becoming a shared truth. Peter takes it in and they know one another.
Back at the house, Tomas explores the familiar handprints on the walls – those from his visions of Cindy. A door creaks open, inviting him to explore more, to play with the malevolent energy. Caleb’s record player spins in a creepy cadence. Grace appears behind Tomas as he begins to pray.
Shelby looks to Verity for some validation. He believes that there have been some supernatural occurrences in the house. Verity, against religion, refutes his claims. She is preoccupied with memories of her suicide attempts, a consequence of living in a homophobic society. Shelby apologizes for the indiscretions of the ranks of vile worshippers; and promises Verity that she is perfect the way God made her. He is the embodiment of what a God loving man should be. As simultaneous conversations happen amongst the kids around the campfire, it takes them a while to notice Truck has been gone for an alarming amount of time. They disband to search for him.
Verity totes a lantern as she passes by the abandoned cabin that had mesmerized Truck earlier this season. A rhythmic banging is heard coming from within. Verity enters the home. Concurrently, Father Tomas enters “Grace’s” bedroom where she is banging her head against the wall, in perfect synch with the knocking Verity heard from within the cabin. Father Tomas spots the owl painting and Verity spots Truck – knocking his head against the wall. Verity approaches him to stop the harmful movements, but he is entranced. Truck easily picks Verity up by the throat and slams her against the wall as though she were the doll that Grace carries. Andy hears Verity’s shrieks.
Grace senses Tomas’ power. The room and all its fixtures begin to quake as he reads from his holy book. Tomas commands the demon to show itself and the room freezes. Gravity becomes a mere thought, rather than a law. The objects in the room levitate and come crashing down.
Andy finally finds Verity at the same time as Rose and the rest of his kids. They disarm Truck and tend to Verity, struggling to breathe. Andy is trapped in his own head, Rose is taking charge. Truck cannot remember what he’s done, but Rose needs to follow procedure. When housemates assault one another, safety measures must be taken. As the family leaves the cabin, Rose holds a sobbing Truck.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Tomas demands (once more with feeling) that the demon show itself to him. Grace grabs Tomas by the arm and does just that. Tomas is projected through a historical slideshow of the demon’s past atrocities. The countless deaths that it has caused throughout the centuries, through gunshots and suicides, through drownings and beat downs. Tomas doesn’t just see the murders, he experiences them. Each and every one – until he snaps back into reality and collapses on the floor. This demon has made its claim on this land and its people for years, it’s strength growing with every soul.
Marcus prays on Peter’s boat, guided by the moonlight. Under the cover of darkness he finally hears God speaking to him. With the weight of God’s abandonment lifted from his shoulders, he is able to let go enough to kiss Peter. There is a spark between them, but more importantly, there is a sense of understanding.
Andy and Verity sit inside of his car. Verity insists that she shouldn’t have woken Truck up from his sleepwalking episode, but Andy isn’t listening. He runs into his home and into Grace’s room, destroying the portraits, the paintings, the remaining bond he had with the demon. Grace appears behind the broken owl painting, wearing her brave face. He demands that she leave, but the little girl sprouts. As Grace, now tall as a woman, approaches Andy, he lifts the mask from her face. What he finds underneath is…Nicole. His wife. This demon has its talons deep inside of Andy, and will appear as whomever it needs to in order to keep him invested in the lie.
Father Tomas, having fled the home after his treacherous walk down memory lane, watches from the front lawn. If he needed any confirmation as to whether or not there was a demon present on the property…he’s now found it.