Two possessed girls looking to the sky sitting back to back

The Exorcist: Believer

December 27, 2023
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I’m all for legacy films like this one, but unfortunately for fans of this long-running horror franchise, this entry simply wasn’t worth the watch.

Following the Fielding and West families as they get tangled up in a familiar scenario involving demonic possession, The Exorcist: Believer tries to do something new with the franchise by bringing in not one but two little girls — Angela (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) — who are soon saddled with the burden of playing host to something unspeakably evil. Needing to find a way to get to the bottom of what happened to their children after they disappear for days only to return with no recollection of their time away and looking far worse for wear, Angela’s father, Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) eventually resorts to, you guessed it, calling in an exorcist after traditional scientific means don’t do the trick. As Angela and Katherine lose more and more of themselves in a battle against a dark entity that holds nothing back, Victor must come face-to-face with his past demons while doing his best to save his daughter from a literal one who threatens to swallow her soul whole.

I have to admit, I kinda liked the first act of this one. With a slow-burn approach to the eventual terror that I assumed would be the focal point of the story and an intriguing hook that felt like the world of The Exorcist only updated for modern times, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think I was about to get into something that wasn’t going to be all that bad. But as the halfway mark hit and I was still waiting for the story to kick in and most importantly, the scares, my experience with this one took a nosedive. Despite an inspired dual possession angle, a somewhat fresh setting, and a handful of ideas that weren’t actually half bad (just half-baked), Believer seemed like it was set up to, at least on paper, be something interesting and new for the franchise moving forward, but by the time the credits rolled, that clearly wasn’t the case — and not by a long shot.

Not only does this one skimp on legit scares and never deliver on its dual possession premise, but it’s full of more computer-generated effects than what’s probably necessary for a horror film like this, a movie that at the very least should have been comparable to this year’s Evil Dead Rise, a film that did the job for its respective franchise in a way that Believer simply couldn’t for The Exorcist. Furthermore, when the actual elements of the franchise do pop up in the form of Regan’s mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), it turns this movie into an unnecessary practice in fan service that no one asked for. Sure, I get the reasoning behind bringing in legacy characters, but it feels forced and inconsequential and contributes to the already poor handling of a story that could have been one well worth telling.

In all honesty, the idea to reboot The Exorcist with a film like this wasn’t a terrible one, it just felt like the script and overall story needed a bit more development time to turn the final cut into something unique while also ensuring that proper justice was done to what came before it instead of feeling like a dull and hollow cash grab. I don’t not want another entry in this new and apparently planned trilogy, but if it’s anywhere close to being the quality of The Exorcist: Believer, the legions of fans backing this franchise are going to need to rethink heading to the theaters to see it.

I’m all for legacy films like this one, but unfortunately for fans of this long-running horror franchise, this entry simply wasn’t worth the watch. Following the Fielding and West families as they get tangled up in a familiar scenario involving demonic possession, The Exorcist: Believer tries to do something new with the franchise by bringing in not one but two little girls -- Angela (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) -- who are soon saddled with the burden of playing host to something unspeakably evil. Needing to find a way to get to the bottom of what happened to their children after they disappear for days only to return with no recollection of their time away and looking far worse for wear, Angela’s father, Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) eventually resorts to, you guessed it, calling in an exorcist after traditional scientific means don't do the trick. As Angela and Katherine lose more and more of themselves in a battle against a dark entity that holds nothing back, Victor must come face-to-face with his past demons while doing his best to save his daughter from a literal one who threatens to swallow her soul whole. I have to admit, I kinda liked the first act of this one. With a slow-burn approach to the eventual terror that I assumed would be the focal point of the story and an intriguing hook that felt like the world of The Exorcist only updated for modern times, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think I was about to get into something that wasn't going to be all that bad. But as the halfway mark hit and I was still waiting for the story to kick in and most importantly, the scares, my experience with this one took a nosedive. Despite an inspired dual possession angle, a somewhat fresh setting, and a handful of ideas that weren’t actually half bad (just half-baked), Believer seemed like it was set up to, at least on paper, be something interesting and new for the franchise moving forward, but by the time the credits rolled, that clearly wasn’t the case — and not by a long shot. Not only does this one skimp on legit scares and never deliver on its dual possession premise, but it’s full of more computer-generated effects than what’s probably necessary for a horror film like this, a movie that at the very least should have been comparable to this year's Evil Dead Rise, a film that did the job for its respective franchise in a way that Believer simply couldn’t for The Exorcist. Furthermore, when the actual elements of the franchise do pop up in the form of Regan’s mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), it turns this movie into an unnecessary practice in fan service that no one asked for. Sure, I get the reasoning behind bringing in legacy characters, but it feels forced and inconsequential and contributes to the already poor handling of a story that could have been one well worth telling. In all honesty, the idea to reboot The Exorcist with a film…

5.7

Don't Believe In This

The Verdict

5.7

6

Brian is first and foremost a nerd in every way shape and form. He likes to compare himself to a black hole, consuming any and every form of entertainment unlucky enough to get caught in his gravitational pull. It's not uncommon on any given day for him to read a couple comics, settle down with a good book, watch a few movies (inside and out of the theater), catch up on his ever growing but never depleting Hulu queue, challenge himself with a few good video games, listen to any music he can get his hands on and, of course, write his heart out. He spends every waking moment dreaming up interesting and intriguing concepts and ideas that will hopefully one day inspire and entertain anyone looking for an escape from their daily lives. Graduating from Full Sail University in good old humid Florida, Brian currently lives and works in New York City and is waiting for the day when all he has to do is wake up and create something unique and new for people to enjoy. He is always in the process of writing scripts and stories and is constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance and build his creative drive. After all, life is just one big story, all that really matters is how you strive to make it the best story possible. Disclaimer: Brian does not actually have powdered green skin in case anyone was wondering. A Skrull I am not. Blame the guys at the Color Run for this one.

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