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Film: The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
Plot: Since the death of his pregnant wife in a Haitian earthquake 12 years ago, Victor Fielding (Tony winner and Oscar® nominee Leslie Odom, Jr.; One Night in Miami, Hamilton) has raised their daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewett, Good Girls) on his own.
But when Angela and her friend Katherine (newcomer Olivia Marcum), disappear in the woods, only to return three days later with no memory of what happened to them, it unleashes a chain of events that will force Victor to confront the nadir of evil and, in his terror and desperation, seek out the only person alive who has witnessed anything like it before: Chris MacNeil.
Cast: Leslie Odom, Jr., Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Lidya Jewett, Olivia O’Neill and Ellen Burstyn
Director: David Gordon Green
Studio: Universal Pictures
Average Grade: C
If The Exorcist: Believer was just another exorcism movie, it might be a passable way to kick off October. Since it’s an Exorcist movie, however, it must be evaluated as such. That almost sounds unfair, as you can’t expect any sequel to match the impact of the late William Friedkin’s masterpiece. At the very least, though, you expect a film worthy of the Exorcist name. Unfortunately, if it weren’t for a few iconic musical cues and the presence of Ellen Burstyn, you wouldn’t even know that this was an Exorcist movie. It easily blends in with The Last Exorcism, The Pope’s Exorcist, and all of the other movies hoping to be mistaken for the 1973 classic.
Haunting imagery anchored alongside 2 effective physical performances could make you a believer. Do we still value the thematic and terrifying potency of possession films like we used to? The Power of Christ compels me to say #TheExorcistBeliever DOESN’T!
David Gordon Green’s latest horror legacy sequel is unfortunately closer to the chaotic likes of Halloween Kills and Ends in terms of its connection to the original movie. Though there are some decent themes explored and a few good performances, it cannot match the original in most ways and it utterly wastes Ellen Burstyn. If this is truly to be the start of a new trilogy, let us hope the others improve matters.
Watching this uninteresting “legacy” sequel slowly collapse in on itself is even more painful knowing that somehow two more of these are planned in the coming years. This is an unwarranted nightmare, full of heartache for longtime fans and serious headaches for those expecting something worth the wait.
If you’re going to attach yourself to something like The Exorcist, you have to bring something to the table. Unfortunately, this was a lackluster movie with standard performances and nothing to say. A disappointment.
Once again, there’s an attempt to make a sequel to William Friedkin’s 1973 masterpiece, THE EXORCIST, and once again they failed. There is not an original idea within this movie and it fails to be the least bit scary. The characters are either underwritten or deserve very little in terms of sympathy with the exception of the two girls Angela and Katherine played by Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum respectively. The biggest cardinal sin this movie commits is bringing back Ellen Burstyn from the original and having her do nothing. For the supposed true sequel to what is claimed to be the scariest movie ever made, it’s a straight-up embarrassment.
At the end of the day, the movie, more or less, just feels like a pointless cash grab designed to trick people into seeing a movie with stunt casting and a famous franchise name brand associated with it. Where the 1973 film was compelling and horrifying, this 2023 dud is super bland, pointless, and shallow, never earning its franchise moniker, nor the Easter eggs that come with it. Overall, the only thing The Exorcist: Believer will compel you to do is leave the theater with a giant shrug of disappointment.
I wanted to believe! after, what David Gordon Green and co. did with Halloween, I had high hopes for their take and continuation of the Exorcist story. by the end credits, what I did end up believing is; perhaps The Exorcist need be left alone.
Director Green makes shrewd use of perspective so that the images we see are distorted in natural ways that still suggest a supernatural perspective. His pacing is effective so that tension intensifies by increments. He provides fear in small and large doses, avoiding fakeouts. We get some visuals we expect, but they retain their intended impact. Christopher Allen Nelson’s special makeup effects echo Stan Winston’s from the first film while adding some apt new flourishes.
The Exorcist: Believer feels like a generic big studio possession film forced into the Exorcist franchise through cheap cameos. The first half of the film was engaging enough, though familiar, but the film completely fell apart in the back half. Ellen Burstyn, as Chris, is at best wasted, but truthfully they tarnish her character’s reputation and use her to criticize the actions of Father Merrin in the classic original as part of the “Patriarchy.”
Worst of all the movie is so afraid of giving the Roman Catholic Church any credit, it has to rework the mythology and lore of the franchise. All of this leads to a bizarre Avengers-style team up exorcism featuring all different faiths. And while the original is infamous for it’s extreme nature, somehow this movie still manages to feel in poor taste by it’s end, though not in the right way. While it desperately tries to evoke big emotions with it’s message about people working together, it utterly fails to have any of the deeper meaning that made the original a classic.
The film has a slick production, but it doesn’t feel like David Gordon Green has even a basic understanding of the original film.
It’s been fifty years since the original Exorcist movie and none of the sequels have been able to hold a candle to the original, or even be very good (with the possible exception of The Exorcist III). That trend continues with The Exorcist: Believer, as the franchise turns into a copy of a copy of itself and brings back Ellen Burstyn for absolutely no reason, shuffling her offscreen after just a few minutes of screentime to generate enough footage to put in the trailer. An initial eerie premise devolves into the same tired possession movie that’s been done a thousand times before in what is supposedly the first in a new trilogy of films. Someone needs to exorcise this trend from Hollywood.
Here’s the main issue – The Exorcist is the definitive cinematic depiction of an exorcism. No film has come remotely close, and it’s near impossible not to measure any film focused on demonic possession against it, let alone movies literally existing within the same continuity. With multiple sequels and prequels, along with a television series, there have certainly been attempts to dig further into this lore and find something worthwhile (for the record, William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist III delivers the goods). As the latest attempt, however, The Exorcist: Believer suffers in maybe the worst way it could for this franchise – it’s a bore.
I was not a fan of The Exorcist: Believer. There were some very good elements – scares, acting, and buildup were solid. But the editing is horrifying, and not in a good way. Leslie Odom Jr. needs to be in more – he channeled the energy of fear but determination to save his child. Unfortunately, the pacing comes to a screeching halt as soon as the exorcism begins and the ending completely ruined the film for me.
There is no need at all for this film to connect directly back to the original and how it chooses to do so is a complete waste of time (and Ellen Burstyn’s talent). But David Gordon Green does a great job of capturing parental fear and the unique angle of dual possessions in girls with parents from different belief systems makes this a fresh, intriguing story all the way to its scary and thought-provoking ending. Conceptually better than it is deep, but still very entertaining.
Paul McGuire Grimes
This movie wouldn’t be what it is without Ellen Burstyn back as Chris MacNeil. While the movie doesn’t center around her, it’s powerful to see where we find Chris. The audience may be divided on her journey, and we do get confirmation of what has happened to her daughter Regan. It provides the film with an emotional spine without relying too heavily on nostalgia or flashbacks. The Exorcist: Believer may not be as jarring as the original, but its themes of community, evolving spiritual beliefs, and forgiveness snuck up on me in an emotional way I didn’t see coming.
Lupe Rodriguez Haas
It delivers a few good scares but the ending was too easy and lazy. I liked that other religions/rituals were brought in but they didn’t see it through. Didn’t reach the frightening level of the original but didn’t expect it to. And they did Ellen Burstyn’s dirty.
Yucky? Yes. Scary? No.
The lack of originality is both shocking and disappointing as the only thing frightening about this film is that it got made. The only answer is to try and squeeze out a few more bucks from the franchise.
The Exorcist: Believer is another undistinguished horror movie, that has no business being even mentioned around the iconic original of 1973. Please stop David Gordon Green from taking the reins of horror franchises. Apparently, Halloween (2018) was his peak in this genre. Awful.
“Exorcist: Believer” lacks the brilliance of William Peter Blatty’s writing and the deeply personal direction of William Friedkin’s direction of the original, which literally changed the horror genre.
This disappointing new film just doesn’t give the audience enough to care about due to a lackluster and uneventful script offering too many characters and not enough truly horrifying moments. “The Exorcist: Believer” is only a pale shadow of the original and never comes close to hitting the target.
It gets a D. It’s rated R.
Staci Layne Wilson
There’s some gore and goo, and the main characters—played by Leslie Odom, Jr., Lidya Jewett—are likable and sympathetic; there’s not enough new here to bring life back into The Exorcist. It’s a decent possession movie, but it’s no better than other recent offerings (The Pope’s Exorcist, Evil Dead Rise).
The Exorcist: Believer started off promising, but it quickly devolved into a messy third act where the filmmakers wanted to cram everything in. There are twists and dialogue that were an injustice to the original film.
The Exorcist: Believer starts well and features strong acting throughout. The writing gets worse as the plot moves along though and the film ends with a dull exorcism climax. For being a legacy sequel to one of the scariest films ever, it is quite tame.
The Exorcist: Believer has solid performances but it’s completely soulless & lacks a distinct sense of style or atmosphere. “Shocking” imagery doesn’t equal scares & as a legacy sequel it’s very thin. At the end of the day, it lacks a real reason to exist.
David Gordon Green can’t let evil rest in Hell. First, it was Michael Myers. Now, Pazuzu. One Letterboxd user says that the director is “out here ruining iconic franchises like [he’s] the CEO of Disney.” It sure feels like it. At first, his foray into the battle between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode seemed promising, with a first Halloween entry that’s quite good. But this was followed by two more that were a disappointment. Would his take on William Friedkin’s The Exorcist follow the same pattern? Unfortunately, he’s starting with disaster. Without the iconic title, The Exorcist: Believer is serviceable at best. It’s just your typical, not-very-good possession movie. Being in the shadow of one of the most celebrated horror works of all time, Green’s latest film has to prove to its audience why it needs to exist — something he fails to do.
I would’ve enjoyed The Exorcist: Believer more if it had no ties to William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece. David Gordon Green does a decent job staging the final exorcism & Leslie Odom Jr. provides enough grounded emotional support but I found this mostly lackluster & pointless.
Possession stories always seem to pale in comparison to The Exorcist and that is especially true for The Exorcist: Believer. When the original film came out in 1973, it terrified audiences and to this day remains an iconic horror classic. I watched the film too young, and I can still remember how scared I was to go to bed. My young mind thought that somehow the demon could only get me if I was sleeping in my room because that’s what happened to Regan (sound logic!). It’s too soon to tell how many kids will be traumatized by accidentally watching this sequel, but one thing is for certain: The Exorcist: Believer is a cheap imitation of the original film.