Mini-Series Review: Apparitions

Apparitionsby Brad Nelson   2/18/14
Imagine a Catholic-themed television series produced in the UK that is (all things considered) kind to Christian beliefs and hostile to atheism. You might think I am in need of an exorcism myself for suggesting that such a thing could exist, especially in the UK.

Imagine, also, Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, presented not as a vast wasteland of forever-kindergarten milquetoast harmlessness leading to narcissism and moral torpor, but as an actual fight between good and evil in which one must choose clear sides.

Martin Shaw plays Father Jacob who is next in line to become the Vatican’s chief exorcist. And, for some reason, Satan isn’t looking forward to his promotion (nor are some of the bigwigs in the Vatican). In order to unleash his new armies on earth, Satan (acting through his minions) must tempt Father Jacob, break his faith, and bring him down. Can this fearless and faithful priest hold up against these demonic forces while also fighting his own bureaucracy in the Church?

And you’ll likely be thinking along with me as you see behind the scenes in this Cosmic battle, “What if reality was really like that? What if demons (or saints) actually could possess people? And what if reality became a sort of battle of incantations in which one side wins if it can say the right words in the right order using the right relics?” (And this is analogous to our battle with the Left here at StubbornThings as we look for the right combination of words as a way to exorcise Leftism from our midst.)

Father Jacob plays an amiable, tolerant, but not completely wussified priest. His relentlessness and good manners see him through most obstacles, including the common incredulousness in others that things such as evil influences and possession actually exist. But no matter. He fights on, sometimes helped (but more often obstructed) by the nun, Sister Ruth, sent by a higher-up in the Vatican to spy on him. Sister Ruth is played by Siobhan Finneran, otherwise known as the scheming servant, Sarah O’Brien, from Downton Abbey. There is some similarity between these two characters.

The main conduit of evil is the unkempt Michael (sometimes possessed by Astaruth) played by Rick Warden. You can’t help thinking throughout this series that if only this bedraggled character would get a shave, the demons would lose interest in him. And although Warden infuses this character with a tragic and haunted self-destructiveness, his character is a bit one-dimensional and seems to do stupid things regularly just to move the plot along.

But all in all, it’s a fun and sometimes frightening ride through the mystical and demonic world of the primal battle between the forces of God and Evil. That Britain herself has already sided with the latter makes it somewhat remarkable that a series such as this would be produced as late as 2008 in that country.

Although one can write this off as a mere horror flick, the very essence of Christian and Catholic belief is more or less upheld instead of mocked. And atheists are generally shown in a bad light (remarkable, again). That’s not to say that Catholics will like this six-episode mini-series. But I don’t suppose they will hate it either. But Martin Shaw makes it work in his fine performance as a somewhat low-key Satanic ass-kicker.

Apparitions is available for streaming on Netflix. • (3200 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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5 Responses to Mini-Series Review: Apparitions

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I haven’t seen this, of course; we don’t have Netflix (and currently can’t play either videotapes or DVDs on our TV anyway). But I will note that there has been a recent case in Indiana where remarkable supernatural events were reported not only by the family that experienced them, but by police and social workers as well, and led to an actual exorcism. And while I’m at it, it’s worth mentioning that William Peter Blatty has gotten up a petition to have the Vatican look into the recent misdeeds of his old DC alma mater, Georgetown. (If they want to claim to be a Catholic university, they should uphold Catholic principles. It was no surprise that they refused to join other Catholic institutions, such as Notre Dame in suing over the HHS contraception/ abortifacient mandate.)

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I haven’t seen this, of course; we don’t have Netflix (and currently can’t play either videotapes or DVDs on our TV anyway).

      If you’re vying with me for the Luddite “Off the Grid” award, you’re in the lead. I can still plays DVDs, videotapes, cassettes, and vinyl records. But currently I have no 8-track player (nor any 8-track tapes, for that matter).

      It was a couple years ago when Netflix had a sort of spasm of bad business decisions. Anyway, the result is they split off the streaming from the actual rental of physical DVD’s. I think you can still do both now, but the price doesn’t make much sense. So I went with streaming and for nine dollars a month, it’s one of my few tech indulgences. No iPods. No iPhone. No huge monthly fees regarding anything but my rent.

      So I’m always on the lookout for anything worthwhile on Netflix that is streamable. I think Apparitions is over the threshold easily in terms of watchability.

      Many people, of course, swear to the reality of demon possession and the utility of exorcism. I remain a doubter about that, although I do agree that people get so involved in evil — become twisted beyond what seems natural even for human nature — that surmising a Cosmic evil influence of some sort does not at all seem ridiculous.

      But people (Catholics, for instance) who are taught this stuff as a vital and tangible reality might find these types of series disturbing and probably of less entertainment value than the general public. For instance, I saw The Exorcist and thought parts of it were ridiculously funny. But at the time this came out, I heard several first-hand accounts of people (Catholics) having nightmares for weeks afterward.

      That’s not to make fun of Catholics. But the fact is, there are many people who believe completely in the reality of demons and demon possession. And if this is taken as a given, then the acts that play out in Apparitions is (or would be) just a humdrum daily occurrence — business as usual in the daily war of good vs. evil. So, in that sense, Apparitions works as a fine piece of sci-fi, although lists the keywords for it as only “drama” and “horror.”

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Our flat-screen TV has an embedded CD/DVD player, but it isn’t working. The problem is that I play a lot of music CDs, and over time the CD players tend to break down. We have an external videotape player, but hooking it in would be difficult to do at present (and presumably irrelevant for Netflix). It also plays DVDs, but many of them have lightening/darkening problems (I don’t know why, or why not all do).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Hmmm….I’m not sure what your darkening/lightening problem might be. Have you though of bringing in an exorcist for the player?

          Regarding this series itself, it was apparently cancelled after six episodes. But these six episodes do fit more or less into a complete whole. You’re not left hanging. But you can also see where another season would likely go. And these “seasons” for these British series are often 6 to 8 episodes per season. So I think we get one full season of this.

          I concur with the decision not to make another season because this is pretty much a one-trick pony. But it’s an interesting enough pony while it lasts.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    And I must be correct in my summation that this is not your typical postmodern/liberal/Leftist hatchet job of religion. One annoyed reviewer at writes:

    The only “scary” bit in it is that it seems like a religious propaganda video. I can only speak toward the first episode, but It very much seems as if it is written by a fundamentalist that is writing for viewers with the same religious context: scaring them with atheists and homosexuals, as tools of Satan. If you like religious bullying, this storyline is framed for you:

    Hahahaha. I think I smell the aroma of burning martyr….atheist in this case. No, this isn’t a religious propaganda film. But it will certainly annoy your typical pinheaded leftist/atheist who believes that there is no deeper sense of right and wrong than what they are told is so on the BBC or on MSNBC.

    If belief in absolute right and wrong makes one a “fundamentalist,” then count me in. It’s ironic that reviewers who write such drivel aren’t themselves aware of a very real (as least worldly) satanic influence which works to part people from all thoughts and actions that are decent, restrained, and non-narcissistic. One must remember that Saul Alinsky — one of the foundational “gods” of both Hillary Clinton and Obama — dedicated his book to Satan.

    In and through the Leftist cause is the willfulness to destroy just for the sake of destroying. And there is propagated and learned a visceral discomfort with just normal decency. That truly evil people such as the Clintons and Obama can convince people that their machinations are all for “the environment” or to counter a supposed “war on women” just goes to show you the power of deception. And one of the marvelous and intriguing running themes of Apparitions is the power of deception to move people toward evil.

    Probably one of the most annoying aspects of the mini-series to the latently satanic “secular” sorts is the black priest who joins the priesthood in part to escape his homosexual past. That is, he didn’t view pole-smoking as something to be “celebrated.”

    Lord keep us from the kind of small-minded Leftist fundamentalism that is poisoning our land. These people have no sense of humor. This series is by no means mindless propaganda as it portrays people inside the Church, some who are working for the good, and others who are not.

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