One of the most buzzed-about horror films of the year, The Exorcist: Believer, is now streaming on Peacock. I’ve been eagerly waiting to see it for myself. Now I have. The movie has been getting mixed reviews. But is it bad or good? Let’s talk about it.
First, I will state the obvious: ANY film/sequel compared to the original Exorcist will always fall short. That’s just a fact. In my opinion, William Friedkin’s 1973 classic is the best horror film ever made. It’s perfect, and that is incredibly rare. The Exorcist 3 may be an exception to that, though. It’s brilliant. But those aren’t the movies we’re here to talk about.
So, what is The Exorcist: Believer about? In the film, “Since his wife’s death, Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) has raised his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) alone. After Angela and her friend (Olivia O’Neill) return from a three-day disappearance with missing memories, they begin displaying frightening behavior. Victor’s best hope is to find the only person who has seen anything like this before: Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), whose haunting experience with her daughter Regan may be the key to combating ultimate evil.” The story itself is interesting and features a ton of tragedy, desperation, and heartbreak.
It was great to see Ellen Burstyn, who starred as Chris MacNeil, Regan’s mother in the original, make a cameo. The studio made a huge deal of it in their advertising, but in reality, she gets very little screen time. During the film’s promotion, they somehow kept a secret, an incredibly brief cameo from Regan herself, Linda Blair, which was a pleasant surprise.
Speaking of the film’s advertising, I have to confess, there is something that bugs me about the way the film was promoted. In the stills and things sent out to the press, they mainly showed scenes and stills of only one of the young stars, Norah Murphy, but her character is not the movie’s primary or secondary focus. Regarding the kids, it’s Angela (Lidya Jewett). I can’t help but ask myself why. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not accusing anyone of being racist. It could have been handled this way for several reasons, including the images of one girl coming out better than the other, but I find it a bit odd. Something else left me scratching my head: many of the scenes shown in the trailer must have been cut because they are not in the movie, which is a shame. Unfortunately, those cut scenes are not featured in the Blu-ray’s bonus features.
The young stars, Murphy and Jewett, did a good job with what they were given. I think they came across as genuinely creepy, and during the exorcism scenes, the way they moved and looked was chilling. I found one of the main characters, Angela’s father, Victor, played by Leslie Odom Jr., a bit off though. His facial expressions rarely change, making him appear unapproachable and blasé. He looked like he really didn’t want to be there. If my kid were possessed, I would be going through a gambit of emotions and losing my shit. But not him. He remains mostly steady. Sure, there are a couple of scenes where he actually shows emotion, but for the most part, he’s blah.
The twist at the end was not a huge shock. It lays it out for you with heavy foreshadowing if you’re paying attention. But ending the film the way they did was a great choice. But I won’t spoil it for you.
The kids’ makeup looked good, transforming their angelic faces into contorted, swollen, lumpy messes that way that resembled Regan’s look in the original. Unfortunately, some of the other special effects look terrible. There’s a scene near the end that involves smoke. It looked cheap as hell and out of place—terrible CGI.
I was happy to see a lot of homage paid to the original throughout the film, including the scene where Regan has an accident on the rug. And the scenes where the events of Regan’s possession were actually mentioned.
I appreciate that multiple religions and denominations were represented. I think it was a great choice, but it comes across as weak and shallow. None of the religious leaders show real conviction.
Overall, The Exorcist: Believe is a terrible movie. When you make a sequel to such an iconic film, that’s what you get: a movie that’s just okay at best.
Believer is just the first of a new trilogy from David Gordon Green, who also created the Halloween trilogy. Keep your eye out for news of the next installment. There is a rumor that Green may not be directing the next film. Judging by his interviews and statements, I get the feeling that he wasn’t happy with how the movie turned out. That’s never a good sign.
To sum it up, The Exorcist: Believer is just as terrible as you’ve heard. And it deserves less than its 22% Rotten Tomatoes score. It has little to no redeeming qualities. You can watch it now on Peacock or get your copy on Blu-ray, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.