June 3, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Outcast”


OUTCAST:  Friday 10PM on Cinemax – If Nothing Else Is On…

The surprise is that it took Cinemax so long to enter the world of TV horror.  With the notable exception of The Knick (and somewhat less notably, the network’s trademark “Skinemax” late-night soft-core programming), all of its original series have been genre pieces, including the often amazing Banshee, and meanwhile viewers have been swooning over The Walking Dead.  Perhaps to avoid wasting any more time, now that it’s entered the field, Cinemax has gone straight to the source with OUTCAST, created by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and based on another of his graphic novels (this one with Paul Azaceta), with demonic possession rather than zombies at the dramatic center.  The network has also played the we’re-so-confident cable card of renewing Outcast for Season 2 before the series has even premiered, and while the ratings bar on Cinemax is very low, probably making the series a safe bet, the content of its opening hour isn’t particularly special.

The introductory sequences are certainly grabby, and have been heavily featured in network promos:  a boy smashes his own head bloodily against a wall to crush an insect, which he then eats, followed by his munching on his own fingers.  After that, though, the pace slows down considerably.  The boy is Joshua (guest star Gabriel Bateman), and the foe of the demon possessing him is Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit).  Kyle is the talk of Rome, West Virginia (the show is actually shot in South Carolina, which must have better tax rebates), because of his inevitably troubled past, with violent demonic outbreaks involving his mother and now-estranged wife, the latter battle causing him to lose all rights to his daughter.  Kyle is at loose ends when we meet him, but he has a tart yet caring adopted sister, schoolteacher Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) as a support system; her husband, deputy Mark (David Denman), is much less favorably disposed.  Kyle’s demon-hunting partner appears to be the local reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), and Rome’s sheriff (Reg E. Cathey) keeps a jaundiced eye on what goes on in his town.

The premiere, written by Kirkman (the series showrunner is Chris Black, a veteran writer/producer whose credits include everything from Reaper to Ugly Betty to Mad Men) follows the Exorcist playbook closely, as Joshua speaks in the too-knowledgeable adult voice of the demon, levitates, throws objects with his mind, and does some projectile vomiting for an encore.  Kyle mostly broods and has flashbacks, which are cut together to provide some but not all relevant information, since the story needs to be parsed out over multiple seasons.  (The Exorcist itself will have the same issue and worse when it’s rebooted as a FOX series next fall, considering that the broadcast network orders will require even more episodes.)  By the end of the hour, Kyle discovers that the town’s demonic possessions are aimed at him, because he is–you guessed it–The Chosen One.

Director Adam Wingard, a horror specialist who was behind the camera for You’re Next and The Guest, among other thrillers, is efficient enough when it comes to the setpieces, but he doesn’t get much from the actors beyond the obvious.  Fugit, still best remembered as the lead of Almost Famous, is an interesting choice for the lead in a story like this, but so far he just recalls Ethan Hawke’s occasional paycheck performances in supernatural product.  As is often the case with low-budget horror movies that pause for characterization or exposition, the energy flags badly when no demons are around.  Of course, with 19 more hours either produced or on order, Outcast has plenty of time to show some additional depth or originality, but it’s off to a bland start.  There’s nothing possessing it beyond the desire to imitate past hits.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."