The Walking Dead Creator’s New Show Is a Bloody, Brutal Ride
First, it was zombies. Now, demonic possession. Robert Kirkman, the creator of the comics behind AMC’s zombie smash The Walking Dead, is taking another swing (stab?) at television horror this summer with Outcast. And, by the looks of it, his new show will be just as brutal as its predecessor—in all the best ways.
The first bloody, goopy episode screened this week at the South by Southwest film festival. Afterwards, it was announced that the series will premiere June 3, and that it’s already been picked up for a second season, which is bananas, especially considering that Monday’s screening was the first time it had ever been shown to the public.
Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a loner in small West Virginia town who has a peculiar history of watching friends and family get possessed by demons. But these aren’t PG-level possessions. This is a Robert Kirkman show, after all, and Robert Kirkman shows get grotesque. Fast. The show is shockingly vicious—and since it’s on Cinemax, Outcast’s creative team is free to ratchet up the ultraviolence as much as they see fit. “They give us a lot of leeway,” Kirkman said at his show’s premiere screening.
Much like the The Walking Dead, which Kirkman executive produces, this new show is based on a comic written by the man himself. But while The Walking Dead was already going strong in print when the TV series went into production, Outcast was conceived of as both a show and a comic book from the start. Kirkman says he’s using both the books and the scripts to develop different aspects of the story, and that Outcast’s television timeline will follow the comics more closely than The Walking Dead’s does.
The world of Outcast is steeped in dread. Kyle (Almost Famous’ Patrick Fugit) lives in a state of chronic emotional pain. His entire life, he’s watched people close to him become possessed and turn violent. He doesn’t know why this keeps happening, and of course there’s no good explanation he can offer to friends who might be able to help. So he alienates himself, living as a shut-in behind the drawn curtains of his childhood home, alone with his terrible memories.
When people in the town suddenly start becoming possessed, the local reverend (Philip Glenister) quickly finds his hands full as he’s called upon to perform the exorcisms. Kyle, compelled to get involved after hearing of the latest possession, drops in to lend a hand. In the first hour-long episode, we can sense an odd partnership forming between the non-religious Kyle and pious man of the cloth.
Kirkman says he’s been interested in exorcism stories within the horror genre ever since he was little. “I had a slightly religious upbringing,” he says sarcastically, “I don’t like to talk about it.” Instead, Kirkman says, he prefers to work out his frustrations in his art.
The exorcisms are bloody and punctuated by bone-crushing violence. As episodic horror goes, Outcast is very well done, but it has a mainstream sensibility and doesn’t seem eager to push those boundaries stylistically. Still, it’s a spooky and exciting hour.
With the comics and the TV series being created in tandem, Kirkman is aware some might fear the team falling into a Game of Thrones-type situation where the shows start advancing the story more quickly than the written works. Kirkman promises we have nothing to worry about. There are currently 16 issues of the comic book, and only 10 shows have been shot so far. “We’re putting out issues faster than we’re putting out shows,” Kirkman says. “If we keep this pace, we probably won’t catch up.” Probably.