The Exorcist: Believer is the latest legacy sequel to hit our screens, a full fifty years after the original. Directed by David Gordon Green, the man behind the recent legacy Halloween trilogy, you’d be forgiven for expecting this to be watchable. Instead, this is a horror sequel severely lacking in, well, horror.
The film opens with photographer Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jnr.) and his heavily pregnant wife in Haiti. After an earthquake rocks their apartment building, leaving his wife critically injured, doctors advise Victor that he must decide whether to save his wife or his unborn child.
The action then jumps to thirteen years later, with Victor now living in Georgia with his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett). He works as a family photographer during the day, while Angela attends the local school. One day, Angela and her friend Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) venture into the woods in town to perform a séance in an attempt to contact Angela’s mother. After Victor returns home and finds Angela missing, he searches for the girls in the woods along with Katherine’s parents, Tony (Norbert Leo Butz) and Miranda (Jennifer Nettles).
Unable to find the girls, the parents call the police and a manhunt ensues, everyone in town searching for and talking about the missing girls. Three days later the girls are found in a barn miles away from the town. With no injuries and no memory of the past three days, the girls are sent home. The next day Angela attacks Victor while Katherine has an outburst during a local church service. As the girls’ behaviour worsens, Victor admits Angela into a mental hospital. His neighbour Ann (Ann Dowd) becomes convinced Angela is possessed and points Victor in the direction of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), who has written a book on her daughter Regan’s possession. After becoming convinced that Chris can help, Victor reaches out to enlist her along with a local priest, pastor and a rootwork healer, to try and help the girls before it is too late.
I will readily admit that I’m not a fan of possession and exorcism films in general. Even the original 1973 Exorcist is not one I’m particularly enamoured with, however, I can say that out of all of the exorcism films I’ve seen, this is by far the worst. The original at least was truly horrifying and quite scary, but this has no elements of horror or scares to it at all and in fact, it was just outright boring. It takes what felt like an eternity, but is probably more like an hour, to get to the point where you actually see any demonic possession. And what ensues after we finally get to see this demonic possession feels rushed and very confused. The ending especially just doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. It’s an exorcism film with an ending that doesn’t appear to have an actual semblance of a proper exorcism – half a dozen people standing in a room chanting various religious rites and prayers with no structure does not an exorcism make.
The film looks good and the cinematography is fairly in keeping with the nature of the film, using some interesting shots to try and build some tension. The iconic Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield also makes a return, albeit with a slower feel, and I’m still undecided as to whether I liked this or not. It felt like it matched well to the theme of this film, but it’s a classic for a reason and it would’ve been nice to hear the original version.
The young girls do well playing the possessed victims however they’re let down by the script and a lack of creepy or memorable lines. Leslie Odom Jnr does well as the grieving, worried father although perhaps isn’t given enough chance to shine. It’s Ellen Burstyn however that suffers the most here, as she’s criminally underutilised with her character being sidelined much sooner than she should.
Overall, The Exorcist: Believer was a huge disappointment, lacking in anything that made the original such a classic.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!