How Scary Is 'The Exorcist'? FOX's Adaptation Of The Film Classic Will Deliver Psychological Scares

Forget pumpkin spice lattes — the most exciting thing about fall is that all the creepy TV shows and movies have arrived. Now that I've spent about a week plagued by American Horror Story-induced nightmares, I'm totally ready to add another scary show to my lineup when The Exorcist premieres on FOX on Sept. 23. The TV adaptation of the 1973 horror classic will focus on a family of four in Chicago, who (you guessed it!) must contend with demonic possession. However, there's a significant difference between the TV show and the film. In the small screen version, the fear factor has been upped by a creepy element of mystery — viewers won't know which of the four family members is possessed. So, just how scary is The Exorcist on FOX?

Of course, we all have our own definitions of "scary" — and, personally, I think psychological horror and demonic possession are far scarier than a slasher movie. And, the fact that each member of the Rance family is potentially inhabited by Satan will definitely keep us on edge — and possibly make us long for a simpler time when little Regan's spinning head was a tip-off that the priests would be wise to focus their efforts on her. Furthermore, the trailer seems to hint that the family's home itself may also be inhabited by a malignant force. Yikes.

Because it's a TV series rather than a film, it seems necessary to add elements of mystery and intrigue that will keep us on the edge of our seats for a full season. And, while the film was frightening, the force of evil honed in on just one person — and, by the conclusion, Regan had returned to her normal self with no recollection of the time the Devil had inhabited her body.

At the Television Critics Association summer press tour, showrunner Jeremy Slater stated there are multiple "bad guys who are out there," according to He also noted that on the TV series, "evil has grander ambitions than just targeting one 8‑year‑old girl in Georgetown. Evil has a plan." His reference to "bad guys" seems to indicate that the Devil isn't the only villain on the show — if the force of evil spreads throughout an entire community, it seems likely that certain people who aren't possessed will find some way to take advantage of the situation.

At the same panel, executive producer and director Rupert Wyatt emphasized that the scariest aspect of the plot is that it's plausible and therefore taps into our own worst fears. As reported by Variety, he stated that the film version was terrifying because of its theme:

"The notion of evil insinuating itself into a situation, and whether that is demonic possession or part of the psychological makeup of the person... That’s part of what made it wholly terrifying — that it was so plausible."

And, because the show won't immediately reveal who exactly is possessed, we can expect to spend plenty of time trying to figure out if a character's behavior is the result of negative personality traits or actual demonic possession. According to the same Variety report, star Geena Davis noted that we consistently see examples of extreme evil in the world and that "everyone is capable of an extreme range of behaviors, depending on what you’re exposed to and what your character can resist.”

However, Slater clarified that the show won't be gory or feature gratuitous violence. Based on the showrunners' approach to The Exorcist, it seems like the scariest aspect of the show is that it will challenge viewers to reflect on our own concepts of evil and what we believe causes people to carry out horrific actions. So, although blood and gore will be kept to a minimum, those of us who are seriously creeped out by TV shows and films that focus on psychological terror should probably plan to sleep with our lights on after watching the premiere.

Images: Chuck Hodes; Jean Whiteside/FOX