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Outcast Season 1: A Dark & Twisted Horror Drama That Shakes Up The Exorcism Genre [Review]

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Outcast is an upcoming Cinemax horror series based on the Image Comics series from creator Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and artist Paul Azaceta. It stars Patrick Fugit, Philip Glenister, Reg E. Cathey, Wrenn Schmidt, Brent Spiner and director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) helms the pilot episode. The 10-episode first season debuted Friday June 3, 2016.

Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) is a young man who has been plagued by demonic possession all his life. Now, with the help of the Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), a preacher with personal demons of his own, Kyle embarks on a journey to find answers and regain the normal life he lost. But what Kyle discovers could change his fate — and the fate of the world — forever.

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When Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman decided to tackle the world of exorcisms much in the same way he wanted to dissect the zombie genre, I don’t think he was ready for the amount of eyes that would be upon him so quickly. Hell – when he pitched the idea for his Outcast comic, he unknowingly pitched it to a Cinemax executive and then had to rush a pilot script the same time he was writing the damn comic that the show would be based upon. This is the joy of 2016 (or the last 5 years really) when comics get adapted to film or TV before the damn source material has a chance to breathe. All that being said, even though Outcast was rushed — the final product turned out damn good.

Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) plays Kyle Barnes – a man who truly is an outcast in his community after an incident with his wife and young daughter forces him into exile. You’ll find out straight away what the hell happened and it’s a shocker to be sure… Barnes seems to be drawing dark forces towards him and has done so all of his life. His mother abused him, his current family is also in dire trouble and the community he lives in is slowly being taken over by “possessions”…

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The opening pilot is a monster – almost a self-contained movie directed gloriously by Adam Wingard (Blair Witch, The Guest). A young boy is taken by one of these dark “spirits” and proceeds to smash a cockroach with his face and eat his own fingers. It’s a tad bit disturbing to be sure, so Outcast is not for the faint of heart. It may not be as gory as Kirkman’s other series, but it’s just as shocking in it’s own twisted way. After this latest possession spreads around the town, it makes it’s way to Barnes via reverend Anderson who knows that Barnes has an ability to combat such “evil”…

Throughout the first season we find Barnes and Anderson seeking out possessed people (or formerly possessed) and trying to either beat the darkness out of them with force, or by trying to reason with these “things” inside of the townspeople. There is layer upon layer of mystery in Outcast and the reason I’m using a ton of quotations in this review is because I’m not convinced that the “dark forces” inside these people have anything to do with Heaven or Hell. I have a feeling there’s much more to this possession and although it’s definitely supernatural, I think it’s more fantasy based rather than spiritual in nature. By the end of season one, we’re actually ahead of the comic book right now (which is nearly at 20 issues), so this worries me greatly but I’m thinking that each series will be it’s own beast at this point…

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The performances are truly spectacular too…. David Denman is always a highlight for me, Wrenn Schmidt as Barnes’ sister really nailed her character arc this season perfectly as well but the real scene stealer for me aside from our two leads in Fugit and Philip Glenister was the police sheriff played by Reg E. Cathey. If my town had a sheriff, I would want it to be this guy. He was just so damn delightful and every move he makes is so damn clever. Every single time – he’s on top of this shit – and not once did I ever get upset with this guy. Cathey is always a hit in anything he’s a part of whether it’s OZ or even House of Cards – the man brings this weight and comfort to his performance that the audience can just sit back and enjoy every second he’s onscreen.

Brent Spiner — man oh man… If you like some Data from Star Trek, you’re gonna be in for a surprise when you see Spiner taking on the “villain” role here in Outcast… The man in black, Sidney, has by far the most answers on this show and he will reveal a very large dose of such to the audience later in the season (much in the way he does in the source material). So if you’re feeling confused, don’t worry – you still will be by the end of the season, but you’ll have enough answers to be satisfied with HOW this world works. We may not know WHAT these things are, but we have a good base of HOW they operate and WHY they do what they do. If that makes any sense…

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What I also liked about Outcast, was how the pilot was so faithful to the first issue of the comic… I love when a book gets adapted so directly – panel by panel to the screen. It shows you how cinematic a comic can be and I liked that, a lot. I’m a snob in that sense, so it was nice to see the show taking it’s source material so seriously. That’s also likely because Kirkman had to script the pilot at the same damn time as the comic… But it worked. By the end of the first season we are indeed AHEAD of the comic already and that freaks me out, but the show was very promising and supremely intriguing so I’m hooked for season two in 2017.

Outcast is dark, twisted and shakes up the exorcism genre. I’ve never been a big fan of Exorcist horror but this show and comic appealed to me because of the character writing and visual style. Artist Paul Azaceta’s drawings have truly been brought to life on the smallscreen and whether it’s the soul sucking black ooze of death that flies from these people’s mouths, or the messed up pentagram carved flesh that now scars a main character’s chest — Outcast looks and feels like the comic and I love that. It’s not The Walking Dead – and that’s a good thing. Outcast is an unsettling horror drama that seems to be building to something that I’m sure will shock us all. I don’t know what the great merge is, but it’s coming and Data (err I mean Sidney) is going to make damn sure of that.

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Editor-In-Chief of Fox Force Five News. I had a zombie cameo on the opening page of The Walking Dead issue #91, where I was killed with a machete... It was awesome.