Wednesday, 17 January 2018

X-Files Rewatch | The Calusari

image credit: fox television / dvd bash
‘The Calusari’ may not be one of the best episodes in the X-Files canon, but it sure is captivatingly terrifying. Demonic possession of a child mixed with the murder a toddler by an amusement park ride and lends to a pretty messed up narrative; not to mention the ritualistic killing of numerous chickens.

After the death of a two-year-old Teddy Holvey seems to have supernatural connotations, Mulder and Scully investigate further into the Holvey family and the arrival of their strange, fiercely protective Romanian grandmother, Golda (Lilyan Chauvin). In the cold open of the episode, we see the connotations that Teddy’s death has something to do with his older brother Charlie (Joel Palmer), which presents itself to Charlie’s grandmother later in the episode after the death of his father Steve (Ric Reid).

Believing there is a demonic presence at bay, Golda requests the assistance of Romanian ritualists – the Calusari – to cleanse the home of her daughter Maggie (Helene Clarkson), and her remaining, possessed grandchild Charlie.

Even trying to whittle that explanation down to one paragraph is hard. The narrative surrounding this episode is so convoluted. There is an obvious centerpiece of this episode – an exorcism. It builds up to this point, and there is no disappoint with the sequence itself; it is absolutely terrifying, along with the multiple chilling deaths in this episode. But ‘The Calusari’ is weighed down by intricacies within the lure of the storyline, a lot of which are barely explained or explored. It’s all well and good to have a kid possessed by a demon (which is complicated within itself), but to include an obscure Romanian ritualist group that apparently can exorcise demons and cleanse spirits is extremely far-reaching.

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Maybe I’m looking too much in this episode. I mean, I am, but why shouldn’t I? If an episode as deep as this makes no sense, it really does the basic structure of the episode an injustice. A lot of X-Files seem to not make sense on the surface, but with further viewing and research, the narrative unravels. This episode, however, does not. It is pretty telling that this entire episode was based on Carter wanting to include a ‘garage door opener hanging’; the usual unusual catalyst that leads to a longwinded episode via Carter.

I am honestly struggling to review this episode because I literally have no idea what to comment on. Sure, the ominous, mysterious presence of a foreign cult in western society exorcising a demon out of a child is pretty easy to comment on – it’s scary. But there’s just something about this episode that doesn’t sit right, and after reading how this episode came to be through vague thoughts of ways to die and writer Sara Charno’s experiences as a doctor of Eastern medicine, it’s not hard to see where the inconsistencies within the plot begin. 

*me during the entire episode*

• I can't find anything in particular that specifies who the Calusari in this instance is, apart from on the page for the Romanian fraternal society of the same name, which mentions this X-Files episode:
" [...] featured a group of Romanian elders (of an unspecified religion) attempting a folk exorcism on a Romanian-American boy. Their practice - which on the show involves chicken sacrifice, ritual dagger-waving, and the drawing of a swastika in blood on the boy's stomach -- is ultimately revealed to be well-intentioned and effective rather than sinister, as it first appears."

SCULLY: [...] did the inquest come up with anything unusual? 
MULDER: No, no. But the county medical examiner called me afterward, he was disturbed by this case and by this photograph, and I think with good reason. See, this is a helium balloon here, and the one thing I did learn in Kindergarten is when you let them float up, up and away, but you see this is moving away from him horizontally. 
SCULLY: Did you learn about wind in Kindergarten? 
MULDER: Well, I called the National Weather Service and they said on the day that Teddy died the wind was blowing north but you see the balloon is moving south as if it's being pulled against the wind. 

• SCULLY: So you're saying that uh, a ghost killed Teddy Holvey? 
MULDER: [Pointing at the monitor]
SCULLY: Has anyone checked the camera that took this photo? The lens or the pressure point? 
MULDER: It all checked out, Scully, I think from the information here, this is clearly some kind of poltergeist activity. 
SCULLY: Mulder, this information is the same reason why you'll see a newspaper photo with Jesus' face appearing in the foliage of an elm tree. It's a chance occurrence of light and shadow. 
MULDER: In order to get on those tracks, Teddy Holvey had to escape this child-proof occurrence of light and shadow. 
SCULLY: I've seen some pretty slippery two-year-olds. 
MULDER: So the CME took it home and put it on his own two-year-old, and found it was physically impossible for the kid to reach around and free himself. So unless Teddy Holvey, was the reincarnation of Houdini, then that would be an X-File in itself. 

SCULLY: [...] Have you ever heard of Munchausen by Proxy?
MULDER: Yeah, my Grandfather used to take that for his stomach. 

SCULLY: [Talking about Munchausen by Proxy] It's when a parent or caretaker brings harm to a child by inducing medical symptoms usually as a way of getting attention or status. If you take a look at Teddy's medical history, you'll see that he was admitted to various hospitals ten times during the two years he was alive. That's once every three months. 


SCULLY: The family moved around a lot because of Steve's job and records take time to transfer from hospital to hospital, but this kind of abuse is not limited to just one child, so I checked out Charlie's history as well. 

MULDER: Charlie has medical problems too? 

SCULLY: Since his brother was born, which is right when Holvey's mother-in-law moved in. Often the perpetrator of Munchausen by Proxy will view the child as evil. The old woman would be a likely candidate, but it could be any family member. 

CHUCK BURK: It's called vibuti -- holy ash. Technically, it's known as an apport -- something that materializes out of thin air.
SCULLY: Wait a second. Nothing materializes out of thin air.
BURK: You've read the bible? You remember the story about Jesus creating the loaves and the fishes?
SCULLY: Yeah, but that was a parable.
BURK: In 1979, I witnessed a guru named Sai Baba create an entire feast out of thin air.
SCULLY: Too bad you didn't take a picture. You could have run it through your computer and seen the entire Last Supper.
[MULDER smiles broadly, giggling to himself]

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