The Exorcist – Unclean
By: Maggie Stankiewicz
“The Exorcist” continues its expedition abroad by following Cardinal Guilott (Torrey Hanson) and his co-conspirators to France, which is the perfect location to attempt some wholesome rites of possession. The hopeful demon hosts break apart some anointed wafers and open their mouths, and souls to any demon present. When it appears as though a demon has successfully chosen a host, it’s third eye appears and they sit for dessert. Elsewhere within the Cardinal’s domicile, a chef prepares dessert for the men, mixing in a mortar and pestle (never a good sign) before sprinkling what could be either confectioner’s sugar or poison on the delicacies. At last dessert is served as Cardinal Guilott promises that it will be a heavenly delight. It doesn’t take long for the pastries to make their blood curdle…and eventually spill out of their mouths as though it were pea soup. The chef and waitress, previously faceless, approaches the dying men and uses a candle to set the table ablaze. Saving the hairless car from the flames, our mysterious heroine ascends the staircase while muttering, “All Nature will be renewed by fire.”
Things are less bloody, though equally as dismal, back at Andy’s (John Cho) homestead while he buries the corpse of Shelby’s dead, deformed lamb. Cut to Andy interrogating Caleb (Hunter Dillon) about what truly transpired the night of the well-incident. Caleb remains insistent that Verity was with him that evening and he is so convincing that it’s enough to make audiences second guess themselves. Always a busy man, Andy leaves Caleb’s room to apologize to Verity (Brianna Hildebrand), who is still holding her grudge. When her door shuts, Shelby (Alex Barima) appears behind Andy to beg him to stay out of the woods. He asks that Shelby leave the bloody hand painting behind in lieu is clean, old fashioned prayer.
Andy meets Rose (Li Jun Li) downstairs where she informs him that she will not be reporting on Caleb’s incident, but that the group home must be run by two people. He jokes that she should move in to remedy the situation, but their smiles indicate that might cause more trouble.
The consequences of Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) playing too close to the hellfire are making themselves known as he dreams of faceless women and a still-possessed Cindy (Zibby Allen). When he is startled awake by his own sub-conscious, Marcus (Ben Daniels) announces that they’ve reached the Seattle home of their next charge. As he gets his bearings, Tomas realizes that his dream placed him on this very street. It appears as though no corners of American suburbia are safe from a demon’s grasp. Lorraine (Rochelle Greenwood), the desperate mother of a teenager named Harper (Beatrice Kitsos) tells Marcus and Tomas of Harper’s affliction, which has been afflicting her for the past six months. The men go upstairs to assess the situation for themselves. Harper’s face is covered in open sores, her breathing raspy and shallow. Her possession is apparently advancing.
Back downstairs, Lorraine discusses the dirtiness of her daughter’s possession; a textbook example. The men explain that in order for an exorcism to occur, the possessed human must exhibit certain indications: speaking in tongues, extraordinary abilities, and the like. Father Marcus’ old-school hesitance to exorcism on a whim is perfectly (problematically) contrasted by Tomas’ insistence on performing the ritual before gathering more conclusive evidence. Upon hearing Marcus’ description of a textbook possession, Lorraine shows the men a picture that Harper drew of two priests fighting a large green monster. When it appears as though they are one step closer to performing the ritual, she shows them her prized possession – a copy of Chris MacNeil’s book.
Marcus and Tomas return to Harper’s bedside to discuss her dark passenger, who is named Tobias. Tobias is reptilian in his true form and hides behind her tongue until he becomes enraged. Marcus inspects her throat with a pen light but finds no sign of anything inside her of her mouth until she begins to violently convulse, green vomit spewing out.
Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiwan) has safely made it to Belgium where he meets Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson), the woman Cardinal Caro sent him to out to seek. She is armed with a knife, even within the church – her distrust in the infrastructure evident. She informs Bennett that Caro may already be dead, but balances out the bad news with some good: a fire (that she started) killed Cardinal Guilott and some of his associates.
Harper’s vitals are off the charts, further convincing Father Tomas of the escalating situation. Marcus maintains his skepticism.
Andy confers with his neighbor (Timothy Webber) on Shelby’s strange behavior and admits that he wasn’t always such a righteous man. A woman whom he met in college made him trade in his dreams of owning a sports car for one all about the children. Their small talk is quickly thrown aside and it becomes clear that Andy has encountered more inexplicable situations than he leads on. In the same area, Shelby kneels beside the water to pray.
Worlds finally collide when Rose knocks on the door of Harper’s home, investigating Harper’s chronic absences from school. In a suspicious exchange, Harper’s mom rejects Rose’s requests for entry and closes the door. Unbeknownst to either woman, Marcus silently observes from the staircase both impressed and concerned by her ability to lie. Once again, Tomas and Marcus find themselves at odds, Old Testament and New. Tomas believes God sent him there to help Harper, while Marcus rejects the very notion. Rose watches them argue through a window, but not before Marcus sees her watching them. Running down to the street to meet Rose, she confirms his suspicions: something is off about Harper’s possession story. It’s beginning to sound less like a possession and more like Munchausen Syndrome.
Grace (Amelie Eve) is fearful of the outdoors, even with Andy’s attempts at coaxing her through the front door. After some convincing, she follows him outside and down to the sunflower patch. What could have been a breakthrough moment for Andy and Grace quickly becomes Hitchcockian as thousands of birds begin throwing themselves into the walls of the group home. How’s that for inexplicable? The birds flew from the nearby lake, where Andy’s late wife committed suicide, and died themselves directly in his front yard. Spooked by the revelation, Andy runs down to the lake and finds Shelby wading within the waters, bible in hand. In a heated debate, Andy demands that Shelby stop discussing Andy’s dead wife, and observe his religion with a little less ritual.
Marcus is in a frenzy after learning that Harper has a years-long history of hospitalizations, suggesting that this 6-month possession was never a possession at all. Harper is having a fit within her room. Marcus bursts inside to interrupt Tomas’ religious rites, and the mother’s overbearing behavior. He reveals that he knows about the medications used to feign the symptoms of possession – a reality that send Harper’s mother into a fit of rage. Tomas follows her out but it knocked unconscious when she hits him with a hammer. Harper insists to Marcus that she’s sick while he assures her that she is not unclean or sick – it is her mother who is full of evil to a mortal degree. Harper is a survivor, not a victim – even as her mother comes for Marcus. Our favorite excommunicated priest fight’s Harper’s mother off as she attacks. Saved by the social worker, Rose and her law enforcement companions enter the home, arrest Harper’s mom, bringing the remaining innocent parties to the hospital. If this incident proves anything – it’s that evil doesn’t always rear its ugly face in the form of a demon…humans have it within them.
Tomas admits his visions were wrong, most likely fabricated by the stain of evil. Marcus is more than ready to take the lead where Tomas cannot. Rose approaches mid-conversation to let the men know that Harper will be placed into the system while a case is built against her mother, mentioning that she knows of a place where Harper will be safe – presumably with Andy.
Taking one last trip to Belgium, Mouse takes Father Bennett to meet her source; a renowned exorcist named Sister Dolores who had been reported as missing. As they descend down a stone staircase, stands the body and shell Sister Dolores (Karin Konoval), now inhabited by a feral entity.