Review: The Exorcist: Believer – Faith has been lost
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Leslie Odom Jr., Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum, Ellen Burstyn
It wouldn’t be fair to write a review for this new ‘Exorcist’ movie without bringing up the very hesitant quotes from William Friedkin, the director of the original film (who passed away earlier this year) about such a reboot. A choice quote in particular: “my signature film is about to be extended by the man who made Pineapple Express. I don’t want to be around when that happens. But if there’s a spirit world, and I can come back, I plan to possess David Gordon Green and make his life a living hell.” Poor David Gordon Green is going to have a hard time being haunted, because of how wholly inferior The Exorcist: Believer is to the original.
This time, we have two possessed young girls. One of them is Angela (Lidya Jewett) the single child of single father Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.), who is shown in the film’s dramatic opening having to choose between the life of his wife or his unborn daughter – a tragedy that apparently shattered his faith. Along with her friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum), the two are possessed (by the Devil himself?) when they try creepy magic to try to speak to the spirit of Angela’s mum.
So now it’s exorcism time! Not only do they have a priest, a vicar, and a shaman to do the dirty work, but also reprise the help of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), the mother character from the original 1973 film – though she’s only in the film long enough to solidify this as part of the franchise. If she weren’t here (and there weren’t any musical nods to Tubular Bells), it could stand alone as a regular horror movie revolving around an exorcism. But with this most tenuous attachment to the original series, this inferior movie gets to forever be part of this franchise, even though Burstyn’s presence in the movie is so underdeveloped and feels done for very quick fan service.
At least Believer feels and looks different, not relying on many references to the original, fleshing itself out as its own mediocre exorcist horror movie. Coming from too many characters, the discourse around religion, faith, and the devil comes across as incredibly basic, insubstantial and obvious – the kind of comments you’d see on some inspirational poster in a waiting room.
In terms of scares, Believer has some creepy moments, sometimes ending in a regular jump-scare, sometimes ending in something a little more unexpected, but they are only early on in the film, and the “horror” just ends up becoming more and more unintentionally funny.
Again to quote the late great Friedkin’s concerns over a new ‘Exorcist’ movie, he tweeted “there’s a rumour on IMDB that I’m involved with a new version of The Exorcist. This isn’t a rumour, it’s a flat-out lie. There’s not enough money or motivation in the world to get me to do this.” But there was enough money for Burstyn, who claimed “I feel like the devil is asking my price” for her well-acted, but laughably hollow cameo appearance.
This is a silly movie at best, despite its utmost seriousness, and feels much, much closer to being a regular product of the Blumhouse horror film company than a true continuation of this horror franchise.