Wednesday, December 29, 2010

X-Files--"The Calusari"

The formula of “The Calusari” is to borrow liberally from The Omen, The Exorcist, and Rosemary’s Baby, add Mulder and Scully, then cross your fingers hoping no one notices. I am not a huge horror fan, but I recognize the biggies of the genre. The story added some particularly gruesome kills--the most gruesome of the series so far--as a distractive from the episode being so derivative, but the combination gives the episode a derivative and undue grotesque feel.

The episode begins with a family visiting an amusement park. They have a baby with them. The baby loses his balloon. The father takes a balloon away from his nine year old son, Charley, and gives it the crying baby. He promises to get Charley another, but that is not good enough. Some sort of ghostly force moves the balloon away from the baby while his mother is in a bathroom stall and leads the baby out to a park ride which runs over the child, fatally injuring him.

The father works for the State Department (The Omen), so Mulder decides to run his own investigation because he believes, through photographic evidence, a ghost used the balloon to lure the baby unto tracks. The agents visit his home. There, we are introduced to the big red herring. The man’s wife is a woman he met while working in Romania. He married her over her mother’s objection, and brought her to the united states. His mother-in-law came to live with them even though she thinks he is the devil. Meh. Do not all mothers-in-law think that? It gets worse when he is strangled by the garage door in a freak accident. (A la The Omen

She performs all manner of candlelight ceremonies in the home (Rosemary’s Baby) including some which frighten Charley at best, send him to the hospital will strange illness at worse. It looks like she is using some of that old country magic to destroy the family. But she is actually trying to cleanse the boy of an evil spirit with the help of four ambiguously religious figures who are essentiall Max von Sydow stand ins. (The Exorcist)

In the climax, it is revealed Charley had a twin brother named Michael who died at birth. Some separation ceremony was never performed, so the evil spirit of Michael is connected to Charley. Mulder contacts the Calugari to perform an exorcism on the hospitalized Charley while Scully races home to protect his mother from Michael. Note Scully does this without question. She is losing her skeptical edge and joining in with Mulder no matter how far out there he goes.

Mulder helps perform the exorcism, which has all the trappings of The Exorcist sans spewing pea soup. It is successful just in the nick of time to save Scully from being stabbed by Michael. In the voice over, Mulder informs us Charley is blameless and physically okay, but evil is all around us and does not care who gets hurt by it. Well, there is a comforting thought.

I may sound harsh, but “The Calusari” is not really a bad episode. Even its borrowing from horror movies is not so bad. Part of the fans’ enjoyment of the series was speculation about pitting Mulder and Scully against traditional science fiction and horror elements to see how they would handle it. My problem is I prefer gothic horror when I like it at all. Seeing an infant run over by an amusement park ride or a father strangled by his necktie becoming entangled in the gears of a garage door strikes me as gratuitous violence, no genuine horror. Nor does irt fit well with the adventures of our agents.

Indeed, I have already remarked how strange it is for Scully to unquestionably run off in pursuit of a woman because she believes an evil spirit is going to kill her. It dfoes not fit in with the character. Mulder is visibly shaken by participating in the exorcism, but that would freak anybody out, I guess. It just does not fit well. The episode is mildly entertaining, but its gruesome kills and the fact the evil children motif has been done better in “Eve” and evil spirit possessions were done well in "Die Hand Die Verletzt" keep it from receiving too high marks.

The Calusari were a real, historical Romanian cult. They were famous for allegedly removing the curses of fairies. Although they took an oath to God, they had little in common with Christianity. The Church stood in opposition to them, often refusing to allow the Calusari to take communion.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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