Sunday, June 3, 2012

The X-Files: Daemonicus (9.3)

I questioned last season whether The X-Files had grown out of its standalone-driven identity, but Daemonicus manages to explore new areas to old material, creating an episode that falls apart at times yet remains perfectly entertaining as a schlocky horror mystery. What most engages is the freaky-deaky direction this week, Frank Spotnitz going all-out with the scary visuals; transitioning between scenes with shots of billowing and blackened CGI skies, cross-fading between incarcerated psychopaths and rubber-masked demon faces, as well as that interesting crane shot where the checkerboard floor tiles are superimposed over the next scene. It's all very Hitchcockian, lending the episode a gravitas it probably would have lacked in the hands of a less showy director.

Daemonicus itself is an interesting little episode, full of gross-out horror as Doggett and Reyes investigate what is believed to be satanic phenomena. While I'm sure it's all pretty vacuous, the horror money shots are enough to carry most of the episode, especially the elaborate death scenes, like Dr. Sampson and her face full of hypodermic needles. Ugh.

There are, naturally, a couple of issues. Doggett's denial is hitting Scully-season two levels of ridiculous, and it's unfortunate that he seems to be regressing this season, almost to make his and Reyes' mutual characterization a direct lift from our protagonists when the series first started up in 1993. Annabeth Gish's acting also bothered me here, as she played Reyes as if she had never seen bloody murder before, when that seems unlikely. The elaborate Scooby-Doo ending additionally feels a little contrived, but that may be a comment on Doggett's own willingness to accept even the silliest of explanations instead of buying into supernatural theorizing. Hmm.

Daemonicus falls apart at the end, but sometimes reaches vintage X-Files heights of creepiness during the first half hour or so. I guess I'm just a sucker for a standalone thriller. B

Guest stars James Remar (Josef Kobold); Andi Chapman (Dr. Monique Sampson); Sarah Benoit (Evelyn Mountjoy); Tim Halligan (Darren Mountjoy); James Rekart (Paul Gerlach); Troy Mittleider (Dr. Kenneth Richman)
Writer Frank Spotnitz Director Frank Spotnitz

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