The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
The Exorcist: Believer has just hit cinemas, ready to entertain cinema goers throughout the spooky season that leads up to Halloween and beyond. The film works as a direct sequel to the original The Exorcist (1973), and tells a dark little tale about two girls who become possessed by terrorfying entties after disappearing into woods for three days. With a gap of 50 years, the film has one heck of a job to bring us back to the edge of true evil. So, is this dark little tale a terrrorfying adventure into the unknown or 111 minutes of boredom?
On paper, Believer has all the elements necessary to make up an amazing film. David Gordon Green, a proficient director who revitalized the Halloween franchise, brings his seasoned expertise to the project, showcasing a profound affinity for the horror genre. His proven success with the Michael Myers trilogy serves as a testament to his aptitude.
Furthermore, the production benefits from a substantial budget, with a generous allocation of $30 million, a particularly favourable investment for a horror production. The ensemble cast, including esteemed talents such as Ellen Burstyn, Leslie Odom Jr., and Lidya Jewett, adds an extra layer of excellence to the project.
Like the original, Believer drops an atmospheric film filled with plenty of religious iconography, glorious cinematography and plenty of scares. It’s dark, foreboding and it’s use of sound and music is just as sparing as it 1973 counterpoint. It’s actually quite refreshing to find entire scenes painted with the sound of silence rather than swelling orchestral scores that come following a good jump scare.
However, even with commendable direction, a generous budget, and a stellar cast, the film falls short of matching the substance of the original masterpiece, The Exorcist. The primary culprit behind this shortfall lies in its rather lackluster script. It’s crucial to recall that the original vision of horror crafted by William Friedkin was bolstered by a script from acclaimed author William Peter Blatty, who adapted his 1971 novel of the same name.
It’s regrettably that neither of the film’s two screenwriters, Peter Sattler and David Gordon Green, possess the literary finesse required to approach the quality of Blatty’s writing. For a testament to Blatty’s masterful use of dialogue, one need only turn to his own sequel to The Exorcist, called Legion (1983), which he expertly transformed into the film The Exorcist III (1990). In essence, it’s a daunting challenge to measure up to the creative brilliance of Blatty’s storytelling prowess and it’s shocking that then studio did not reach out to more season writers in order to tackle this potential gold mine of a franchise. Considering that the plan is to make a new trilogy, I’m still not sure how this decision was passed.
To expand upon this, lets look at the pace of the original compare to Believer. When Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) is possessed, she under goes consolation, tests and surgeries. A large panel of medical experts are brough together and they conclude that an Exorcism might help. In Believer, the possessed girls, Angela and Katherine (Lidya Jewet & Olivia O’Neill), are brought to hospital and there a single nurse decides that they are possessed. And that’s it. It lacks nuance and conext, and the pacing is just abysmal.
All of this could have been forgiven if the exorcism scene had come together as a major climax for the film, but it didn’t. There is so much wrong here that I could probably write an entire article breaking down all issues, my main complaints are the odd cuts throughout and the fact that everyone can somehow quote the bible, including the exorcism rights, from memory. That’s a trick that even seasoned priest Father Lankester Merrin ( Max von Sydow ) couldn’t pull off in the original. And where were the creepy devil voices that featured so heavily in the trailers? This was such a major part of the original, and yet here we barely hear them.
Despite the films flaws, it’s still a good film. Don’t let my rambling justification of a review put you off. It’s a thoroughly entertaining film worthy of a visit to the cinema. There’s plenty of great things about the film to enjoy, and it even manages to have a few good scares. I just feel that it lacked passion and a certain thread of connection that was needed in order to call it a true Exorcist film.
But wait, I hear you say, wasn’t Ellen Burstyn in this film? Well… yes, she does appear to reprise her role as Chris MacNeil, but barley. And if I’m honest, I hate what they have done with the character, turning her touch with the unknown into catalyst that has turned her successful acting career into a crazed author of the supernatural. Her presence should have been that thread that connects, but it actually just acts as highlight and how badly written the film is.
I won’t be returning to the cinemas to see The Exorcist: Believer again. I may give it a purchase when it hits blu-ray, I may even watch it on demand, but really, this film feels like a filler for bigger and better things. Let’s just hope that the planned trilogy comes to pass, so that we can look upon Believer as that start of excellence. At least, I hope that is what happens. I want to believe!
The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
- Story 24% 24%
- Scares 32% 32%
- Gore 14% 14%
- Music 37% 37%