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The Exorcist: Believer

The Exorcist: Believer
David Gordon Green directs a completely unnecessary sequel that wastes legacy characters and makes the climatic exorcism a parody of itself.

The Exorcist: Believer

Release Date: October 6, 2023
Runtime: 01:51
Synopsis:
When two girls disappear into the woods and return three days later with no memory of what happened to them, the father of one girl seeks out Chris MacNeil, who’s been forever altered by what happened to her daughter fifty years ago.

Table of Contents

Two 13-year-old girls return possessed after going missing in the woods in . Victor Fielding () is the single father to 13-year-old Angela (), whose birth cost her mother's life. Angela goes after school to hang out with her friend Katherine (), however, they disappear in the woods and don't surface again for three days. Both Angela and Katherine begin exhibiting the signs of demonic possession, which concerns Victor and Katherine's parents Miranda () and Tony (). Victor's devoutly Christian neighbour Ann () leads him toward exorcism expert Chris MacNeil () to find a way to cure the girls.

The Exorcist: Believer Synopsis

David Gordon Green continues his horror legacy sequel career trajectory by co-writing and directing The Exorcist: Believer. Similar to how 2018's Halloween marked that franchise's 40th anniversary, this film arrives on the 50th anniversary of the original film directed by William Friedkin. While focusing on a new case of demonic possession, the film sees the return of Ellen Burstyn as original protagonist Chris MacNeil, who now considers herself an expert on exorcism, though not an exorcist herself. With exorcism being a ritual that transcends different faiths, the parents of the possessed girls gather together for a multi-denominational exorcism that includes Catholic priest Father Maddox (E.J. Bonilla), Baptist pastor Don Revans (), Pentecostal preacher Stuart (), and ritualistic healer Dr. Beehibe ().

My Thoughts on The Exorcist: Believer

It has been nearly two decades since the last attempt to make a film in The Exorcist franchise, that being the disaster that was 2004's Exorcist: The Beginning, which had original director Paul Schrader ousted during post-production and replaced with Renny Harlin, who reshot the movie with the “bloody violence the backers wanted.” With that in mind, was anyone really clamouring for a legacy sequel for The Exorcist?

Not only is The Exorcist: Believer is a new standalone sequel to the original, ignoring 1977's Exorcist II: The Heretic and the 1990 cult favourite The Exorcist III, but like David Gordon Green's Halloween films, this film is meant to be the first in a new trilogy, with The Exorcist: Deciever already announced for 2025. However, I fail to see how this story can be stretched across three films since there was already barely enough plot for one. The Exorcist: Believer is more or less a rehash of the original, except now there are two possessed girls.

The biggest selling point of The Exorcist: Believer is the return of Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, who was being positioned in the marketing as one of the major characters of this film. However, without spoiling too much of what happens, Burstyn has only around 10 minutes of screen time in the film and it is used to provide exposition on how to proceed with the climatic exorcism. Burstyn has already admitted to only returning for the money, with her salary being donated to charity, and the 90-year-old actor ended up being quite wasted in her contribution to the film.

One of the central themes of The Exorcist: Believer is how the protagonist Victor, played by Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, Glass Onion), is an atheist, especially after his wife's death following an Earthquake in Haiti. As such the film is meant to be about Victor regaining his faith as he tries to save his daughter Angela. At the same time, David Gordon Green seemingly feels the need to knock organized religion down a peg, particularly Catholicism.

Unlike the original 1973 film, The Exorcist: Believer does not have a sole titular exorcist such as Max Von Sydow's Father Merrin. Instead, the decision is made to have multiple spiritual leaders present at the exorcism, which includes Victor's neighbour Stuart, who is a Pentecostal preacher, Don Revans, the Baptist pastor of the church attended by Miranda and Tony, and Dr. Beehibe, and African healer. Initially absent from the exorcism is Catholic priest Father Maddox, who is denied permission from the archdiocese to perform the rite of exorcism and instead asks former nun Ann to prey in his place. If that wasn't enough cutting down on Catholicism, Ann is repeatedly mocked by the possessed girls for the “sin” of having had an abortion and Father Maddox finally joining in on the exorcism doesn't quite end up as expected.

Other than a certain not-so-surprise return, The Exorcist: Believer ends with no real hint on how David Gordon Green is going to turn this film into a trilogy. If it wasn't for the fact that Blumhouse is contractually obligated to deliver this trilogy, I would just say that The Exorcist: Believer should be just one and done. Personally, I do not plan on watching whatever comes next.

Trailer for The Exorcist: Believer

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.