[Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures]

Movie Review: The Exorcist: Believer

07:00 October 16, 2023
By: David Vicari

The Exorcist: Believer

1973's The Exorcist is one of the scariest horror films ever made. Directed by William Friedkin (The French Connection, Sorcerer, To Live and Die in L.A.) and based on the novel by William Petter Blatty, it's a certified classic and practically impossible to top. Besides the Blatty directed Exorcist III, which is a fairly good occult-themed murder-mystery, the sequels have been lousy, and the myriad rip-offs (Abby, Beyond the Door, The Manitou) are just plain goofy.

Now we have the sequel/reboot, The Exorcist: Believer, and it is godawful. This film is perpetrated by director David Gordon Green and his co-writing accomplice Danny McBride. Yes, the same two numbskulls who unleashed the recent Halloween sequel trilogy upon us. Once again, they prove that they have zero concept of what made their source material work.

In The Exorcist: Believer, 12-year-old Angela (Lidya Jewett) wants to somehow contact the spirit of her deceased mother. So Angela and her best friend Katherine (Olivia O'Neill) go into the forest to perform a séance. The girls then disappear for three days, and when they are found, they are not acting like themselves because they are possessed by demonic forces.

Now we have two possessed little girls instead of one. In the 1973 film, the possession is a catalyst for an exploration of faith and inner turmoil. Believer tries to do that too, but the writing is lazy.

There are a few creepy moments when Angela's dad Victor (Leslie Odom, Jr.) brings her home just after the girls are found, but that's it. Just about everything else in the movie is ineffectual except for some big unintentional laughs, like when a group of character of different religions come together to perform the climactic exorcism in an "Avengers assemble" moment. Then there is the supposed horrific fate of a young Catholic priest that comes off as the comical highlight of the film.

As for the practical demonic makeup effects attempting to emulate the work of the late, great Dick Smith? Well, not everyone can be Dick Smith.

I can't fault the performances in Believer. Odom, Jr. does what he can with the material and Ann Dowd, as a nurse who wanted to become a nun, is good despite the terrible sermonizing she is given to do.

Ellen Burstyn reprises her role of Chris MacNeil from the original film, but the character seems shoehorned into the movie. Curiously, it doesn't seem like Burstyn is even playing the same character. In the original The Exorcist, Chris was protective of her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) and didn't want anyone to know about her daughter's exorcism. Here, however, Chris has written a tell all book which has caused estrangement from Regan. Burstyn's role is very small here, and her character's exit from the story is an offensive embarrassment, but there is a silver lining. The actress agreed to do the film for a big payday to be donated to a scholarship program at Pace University.

The Exorcist: Believer is low energy pseudo horror from a filmmaking team that has no business making horror films. Seriously, re-watch the theatrical cut of the original The Exorcist instead.

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