That’s not a slight, as the BBC show does the same kind of theological heavy lifting as the classic horror film, where Christianity’s ability to trump the devil is achieved, if not without serious hard knocks.
In the six-episode series, English thesp Martin Shaw plays Father Jacob, a Catholic priest who finds faith to be his greatest weapon against Satan when he’s asked to aid a man believed by his young daughter to be possessed. The story arc carries across the entire run in one epic swath, as demonic forces appear to be at work around town, manifesting themselves from home to hospitals, including an elderly woman who mysteriously finds herself with child.
It all boils to a crackling religious mystery where whether a victim was circumcised stands as a vital clue. In its battle of good and evil, “Apparitions” explores themes not just deeply spiritual, but political, racial and sexual. Speaking of boils, those things pop up on a character’s skin, and the series is thankfully loaded with elements we’ve come to expect from possession cinema: dripping blood, projectile puke, pesky flies.
Because it sticks to telling a horror story with great intelligence, suspense and relevance, the series comes strongly recommended to those who like their TV more adventurous and daring. You wouldn’t find something like this touchy on American networks, where such material can prove problematic with viewers, but God bless the British for giving it a try, and not dumbing it down along the way. —Rod Lott