The X-Files #45: The Căluşari

"Neither innocence nor vigilance may be protection against the howling heart of evil."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A Romanian ritual is the only thing that may save a child from the spirits that follow him.

REVIEW: The X-Files sure like to explore the strange recesses of my keyboard, don't they? This is another of those episodes where some specific (and sometimes not so specific) culture informs paranormal events. We've had Native American, Haitian, and now Romanian. It's a take on The Exorcist, basically, but the "demon" is the child's stillborn twin brother, haunting his family as a poltergeist, or even as a physical manifestation. It's an interesting twist on the evil twin concept, and the various rituals - the stuff with the chickens, the bracelets and drawn symbols, the sinking matches, and the exorcism itself - give it its own feel, even if we're not always sure what anything is for or where it came from. But it's got a couple things going against it.

One is that it starts with the violent death of a very small child, which will be unbearable to many viewers, and ends with an extended sequence of a child suffering. Scully throughout talks of child abuse, but that's a false alarm at least. It's not something that particularly perturbs me, and the evil twin's cruelty asking his mother to go back to the site of the murder is a strong moment, but sometimes, I feel like the show is trying too hard to be "edgy". Rapes and child murders can be shortcuts to the audience's weak spots, getting viewers to feel uncomfortable very quickly rather than letting the atmosphere and horror/paranoia elements get them there eventually. It can feel a little cheap.

But more importantly, the episode is padded beyond measure. Just how long is that exorcism? It seems to last forever. A lot of chanting all blurring into one. And after all that, I'm not even sure just how this demonic possession worked. The boy's link to his dead twin allowed the latter to reenter the world, and the Căluşari are intent on performing a separation ceremony. Fine. But why is the "good twin" (quotation marks because he's a bit of a brat) showing signs of possession (rotten teeth etc.) if the demon child is back at the house trying to kill Scully? I guess the demons of the afterlife followed the twin to our plane... or something. And then there's the business with the "holy ash" that doesn't exist according to tests... what's that all about? Points off as well for using the same expert twice in one episode for two completely different things - the photo analyst just happens to be into the paranormal? Cutting casting costs?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's not boring, but by the end, I couldn't help thinking it was cheap on several levels.


Andrew said...

Is this the one where Mulder gets told that the devil knows who he is? Sounds a lot like it, and if so then it's also where I finally gave the show an other shot and ended up hooked for several years.

Siskoid said...

Yes, that's the one.

Is that a thread that recurs?


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