The Exorcist: Believer marks itself as a sequel to the 1973 classic horror film by William Friedkin, one that despite after 50 years, is still widely considered one of the most terrifying movies ever made.
Following the recent trend of Hollywood resurrecting age-old iconic horror franchises such as Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist: Believer serves as a direct sequel to the original and ignores whichever movies came before.
Given that the 1973 original cemented itself as a horror landmark that influenced the genre greatly, The Exorcist: Believer has a rather big shoe to fill.
The horror tale follows Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.) raising his daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewett), as a single parent 12 years after the death of his pregnant wife in a Haitian earthquake.
As with any supernatural horror flick, Victor soon encounters a series of strange unexplainable events after Angela and her friend Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) are miraculously found after being missing for 3 days.
When the terror escalates, Victor has no choice but to confront his own belief to face the nadir of evil to save his possessed daughter and her friend.
Believer opts for a slower pace, gradually setting up its characters and the sequence of events before all the supernatural chaos takes center stage. Starting the story with Victor’s tragic backstory to the present times of his life with his daughter and so on.
It was not until a good chunk of the movie passed that supernatural elements began to be introduced, slowly ramping up the tension and dread.
The result is a horrifying tale that paid off to a degree, scattered with a few unexpected spooks that had me and fellow audiences jumping, especially amplified by its creepy cinematography, eerie silence, and blaring sound effects.
Albeit, the stakes in the movie are low for a good portion as the demonic activities are nothing as extreme as what other similar films had done, especially given how controlled many of the situations seem to be.
Victims of Possessions
Despite the slow buildup, many characters and their motivations unfortunately failed to be fleshed up due to the lack of screen time.
As sequences of events played out, a few new characters began to be dragged into the paranormal disaster without even a proper introductory setup, from Victor’s neighbor to a pastor whose name was not even mentioned.
Even though there are two families intertwined in the evil mess with two possessions happening simultaneously as opposed to one. Not enough time was spent on Katherine’s family and exploring their mental states, resulting in supposedly emotional moments not as impactful as they should be.
As desperation began to consume Victor, he sought out and consulted none other than Chris MacNeil, the protagonist of the 1973 classic. Much like the return of many final girls in recent horror sequels, Ellen Burstyn reprises her role as MacNeil. While MacNeil is a big name in the Exorcist universe, her involvement is short and mostly serves as fanservice, giving a few motivational speeches to push Victor onto the right path.
Speaking of the speeches, there are moments where a character would burst into long monologues. These scenes can feel rather draggy and awkward as the length of dialogue makes the actor’s delivery seem inorganic, robotic, and stiff.
Exorcism and Faith
Arguably the highlight of the film is the climax, or rather the moment when the crew starts to perform exorcisms to save the demon-possessed girls. The exorcism takes up a lengthy part of the movie and is complemented by excellent visual effects, escalating tensions, and some twists and turns.
Rather than turning up the notch, the exorcism scene is made up of both intense and slow moments, evoking a sense of uncertainty and forcing our characters to make difficult choices.
One notable theme that Exorcist: Believer seems to be going for is the conflict between faith, belief, and trust, thus its namesake. Conflicts tend to ensue because of faith as Victor is a skeptic who does not believe in the supernatural while Katherine’s parents, Tony (Norbert Leo Butz) and Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) are religious folks.
As Angela’s possessions got worse, Victor began to reflect on his own beliefs and chose to trust the others around him, becoming the pillar that gathers everyone to stop the evil that is consuming Angela and Katherine.
Filled with a dreadful atmosphere, The Exorcist: Believer is a decent popcorn horror movie worth considering for its exorcism moments. Although The Exorcist: Believer does not stand equally side by side with the 1973 original, it does some aspects well to stand on its own, especially for its eerie cinematography and unexpected effective scares.
One part of the movie that fell short, however, was the emotional moments, which despite the filmmaker’s effort, do not feel impactful since several characters barely get enough screen time to form a connection with the audience.
All in all, The Exorcist: Believer is a fine supernatural adventure with an interesting concept, chaining audiences to the back of their seats as the horror unfolds. However, the delivery can at times feel sloppy and unfulfilling.
Early screening is provided by United International Pictures.
For horror movie enthusiasts, we also have a review for The Nun II, which you can read here.
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The Exorcist: Believer
- Popcorn horror flick with eerie cinematography and few spooks
- Cool exorcism moments
- Some characters do not have enough screentime, thus lack emotional impact
- Stakes aren't high enough for a horror movie
- Inorganic monologue and exposition delivery
- Random characters joining the fray... Have I seen you before?
The Exorcist: Believer