The Exorcist: A Believer’s Awaited Sequel Arrives in Theatres for Halloween Season
One of the most popular horror movies of all time finds its long-awaited sequel hitting theatres this weekend just in time for the Halloween season. The Exorcist: Believer is a horrific continuation of the story most of us have grown up having nightmares about. Directed by David Gordon Green with plans to pump out two more films to complete his newest Blumhouse trilogy, Believer chronicles the story of two young girls who go missing and the woods and bring something sinister home with them once they’re found. Fans of the franchise are licking their lips in anticipation, compelled to watch the newest installment in a long line of demonic possession movies that failed to live up to the original. But does Believer meet the original William Friedkin masterpiece at the top? Or does it find its place amongst the other mediocre sequels to come after it?
For those who are unaware of the magnitude and impact of the first Exorcist movie that came out in 1973, it actually won two Oscars at the Academy Awards in 1974 for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound Design. The screenplay, of course, adapted from the novel written by William Peter Blatty who wrote the script and helped produce the first three movies. When it premiered, it was regarded as one of the scariest movies of all time. This was one of the first, if not certainly the first horror movie that had people vomiting and fainting in theaters. That’s how a lot of studios like to brag about their horror movies these days, by claiming audiences were fainting and panicking at their pre screenings. But the Exorcist was the first horror movie to really have audiences reacting that way. I highly encourage people to look up video interviews of people leaving the theater after watching it for the first time in the 70’s. That’s the only way to really understand the leap this movie took, because we’ve seen the genre evolve so much over time. The alleged budget for the film was $11 million which in 1973 was a monster of a production. But they definitely made their return since The Exorcist grossed $441,306,145 worldwide. And that’s just box office. Not including all the money they made off merchandise, distribution, streaming rights, etcetera. Basically, this movie was extremely successful especially in the realm of horror, which means there are some pretty high expectations for Believer, a movie that’s really flexing its title as the official sequel. But those expectations aren’t necessarily met.
Leslie Odom Jr. plays single father Victor Fielding, who lost his pregnant wife during an earthquake in Haiti. Luckily, their daughter Angela (Lydia Jewett) survived long enough to become possessed alongside her bestie Katherine (Olivia O’Niel) about a decade later. After the pair disappear in the woods for three days, they return home mostly unscathed. But over the course of the coming days, Katherine’s parents and Victor realize that the girls are far from their normal selves.
The Exorcist: Believer does well in remaining true to the original film’s technical elements, such as tone and colour. Its bigger differences come in the form of how the narrative becomes somewhat modernized and broadened. Rather than taking place in a single room with a single exorcism, it’s clear Green and his team at Blumhouse are aiming to burst the floodgates open and expand the story world beyond Reagan’s bedroom. The film boasts some impressive special effects, turning two lovely young girls into short demonic beasts. The film also plays with the traditions revolving around exorcisms amongst different cultures but doesn’t offer as much insight or spend as much time on this topic as the trailer might suggest. In regards to the reappearance of Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNiel, it seems essentially pointless and her character is painfully under-utilized to the point where she could be removed from the film entirely and nothing would change. It’s clear that including her was a marketing gimmick to get fans of the original film into theatres for Believer.
The film often fell into lulls of grey and often halted the narrative’s pacing for some derivative exposition or dialogue, but starts off on a very strong note. We would’ve liked to see the film explore more regarding the various culture’s different practices for exorcisms, more on the father-daughter relationship between Victor and Angela, and a fuller more thought-out arc for returning horror legend Chris MacNiel. We’re eager to see where Green takes the rest of the trilogy after Believer and are excited to see what else the team at Blumhouse and Universal have in store for all the things that go bump in the night.
Watch the trailer for The Exorcist: Believer below
Universal Pictures releases The Exorcist: Believer is in theatres everywhere Friday, Oct 6th, 2023
[Review by guest blogger Jurgen Sosa]