THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER
Starring: Leslie Odom Jr., Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Lidya Jewett, Olivia O'Neill, and Ellen Burstyn
Director: David Gordon Green
The Exorcist: Believer may have exhausted all the goodwill David Gordon Green and Danny McBride earned from Halloween. This unnecessary entry in The Exorcist franchise features straight-to-DVD-level camerawork and wastes the one interesting idea it offers. The connection between the girls could have been SOMETHING, but it’s never explored enough to make it necessary for the story. Also, unlike Jamie Lee Curtis' warranted return to the Halloween trilogy, Ellen Burstyn feels like a cheap gimmick here. I wasn’t expecting much, but I didn’t think the quality of Believer would be low enough to warrant canceling the rest of its planned trilogy. Well, it is.
What makes The Exorcist such a classic isn't just how scary it is, but how it's really a character drama under the guise of a horror movie. I don't believe director/co-writer David Gordon Green understood that. His direct sequel The Exorcist: Believer is filled with cheap scares and characters that you never feel for, utterly failing at the two things the original mastered. Ellen Burstyn is there for fanfare and nothing else, and the movie has some baffling editing choices. And this is supposed to be the start of a trilogy? Consider me checked out already.
Fifty years ago, The Exorcist made cinematic history when Regan (Linda Blair) terrified audiences around the world under the late, great William Friedkin’s masterful direction. David Gordon Green’s legacy sequel, The Exorcist: Believer, isn’t completely terrible, but it pales in comparison to the original classic, while adding nothing of interest that you haven’t seen before, other than there being two possessions instead of one. There is clearly a deep respect and affinity for Friedkin’s masterwork, but that doesn’t prevent Believer from being a poorly paced, bland addition to an already dead franchise.
The Exorcist: Believer just about succeeds as a horror film, but fails as a direct sequel to The Exorcist. It’s at its worst when directly engaging with the source material, wasting Ellen Burstyn’s return as Chris MacNeil, using a disappointing amount of bad CGI effects, and reminding me of the original’s superiority. However, I did think the jump scares were fun, and Lidya Jewette and Olivia O'Neil give great performances (I’d have loved if the film delved deeper into their relationship). I cannot fathom how this would warrant a sequel, but Believer works best as a frivolous fright night flick.