The Exorcist: Believer
This has been a banner year for franchise horror films, as Evil Dead Rise and The Nun 2 have both not only delivered, but has also reignited interest in the franchises. At the same time, Insidious- The Red Door was a disappointment and a far cry from the eerie first two instalments (though it did well at the box office). So when I saw the trailer of The Exorcist – Believer, I had some cautious optimism. After all, Exorcist is one of the most iconic horror franchises in the history of cinema, and a successful reboot could mean a number of good horror films coming in.
Alas, it was not to be. The Exorcist: Believer suffers from a lack of originality, creativity, and perhaps most criminally, scares. It’s one of those horror movies which has unfortunately landed in the ‘comedy’ genre, and feels like a parody of the original Exorcist series. Which is a royal waste, considering the talent involved. So where did it go so horribly wrong? Let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Victor (Leslie Odom Jr) loses his wife in childbirth, and raises his daughter Angela as a single dad. A 13 year old Angela (Lidia Jewett) takes her best friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum) to the woods in order to perform a ritual to contact her dead mother (as if that ever worked out well for anyone in a horror film). The girls go missing, and almost the entire first half is pretty much a search and rescue mission for them. The parents are worried, they turn on each other.
The girls are finally found three days later, in a barn. Only, something is not quite right with them. They bring something evil and sinister with them. What follows is a series of unintentionally funny scenes, with badly dubbed demon voices emanating from the girls.
Desperate to help his daughter, Victor ropes in Chris McNeil (Ellen Burstyn), now a noted writer on exorcisms. You would remember her from the original movies. But even she is unable to save this movie from ultimate doom.
Writers Scott Teems and Danny McBride had the right ideas, but the staging of it all leaves a lot to be desired. The visuals and dialogues don’t support what would’ve been a terrifying tale on paper. They did have some good ideas, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Which brings us to the next person…
The producers got David Gordon Green for the reboot of this once-illustrious franchise. After successfully rebooting the Halloween franchise, one would’ve expected Green to be the best person to helm this project. However, here Green seems bereft of ideas. His direction lacks creativity, and he is unable to put in any scares in the film (perhaps barring a couple of scenes).
There aren’t even enough jumpscares in the film (which I consider a low hanging fruit in the horror genre). And you can see a scare coming from a mile away. Many ‘scary’ scenes are actually comedy gold, and that’s on Green. One more gripe I have with the film is the exposition. We KNOW that the girls were found after 3 days. We know it’s a symbolism of Lord Jesus. You don’t have to spell it out for us.
I would’ve said Green has essentially killed this franchise off, but The Exorcist – Deceiver hits theatres in December 2025, so what do I know.
I wouldn’t blame the girls, Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum, for not being able to scare the living daylights out of us. They did their best. But the writing and direction (and the dubbing) let them down. Leslie Odom Jr does well as a worried, grieving father. Ellen Burstyn seems uninterested in the proceedings, which is a shame considering she was the only ‘legacy’ character in this reboot.
Norbert Leo Butz and Ann Dowd deliver forgettable performances, but then again, the writing doesn’t give their characters any substance.
The Exorcist – Believer is a masterclass in how not to do a reboot. It’s loud, garish, and unintentionally funny, and kills off a classic franchise in one fell swoop. Now running in theatres.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.