REVIEW: The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
William Peter Blatty's 1973 horror icon The Exorcist is one of my all-time favourite films and so despite the reviews, the past sequels and general reputation of reboots and so-called "legacy sequels", I was very excited for Believer.
By the time the credits rolled with Mike Oldfield's ever-famous score, the only thing that I was a believer of is that this left a lot to be desired. Don't get me wrong, whilst I don't think it was as bad as the infamous Exorcist II, it certainly didn't live up to the brilliance of the original- not even close.
Now, I know that this is a different film from the mind of a different filmmaker. That filmmaker being David Gordon Green who seems to be the go-to guy for horror movies reboots as he did with Halloween, which themselves garnered mixed reviews and like Halloween, this is intended as the first of multiple.
It wasn't all bad though- the girls' unholy journey possessed some great visuals and the exorcism sequence is certainly a cinematic highlight. So much so that it seemed to be what Gordon Green was most fixated on as the film simply lacks in almost all other ways. Green favours special effects over actual scares, and those attempts were a little too heavy handed at times, corny even. It's almost as if Green wanted to remind us that this was a horror film as though the title evokes any other expectation, and highlights what a lot of big budget horror movies are missing these days: subtlety.
Part of what makes the original so unnerving is how we spent a large portion of the film getting to know Chris and Reagan MacNeil on a close and more personal level; so when everything went bat-shit, we had an established connection and emotional investment to those characters. Even when it did, it was gradual and built up. Here, the crazy stuff starts within the first 15 minutes of the affair and so we don't have that investment. Not to mention that there are two possessed girls this time and a host of other characters that we have no investment in.
Moving onto the positives, what makes any film at least kind of good is relatable themes. The Exorcist: Believer has one clear overarching theme: Community. Whilst the original dealt mainly with faith vs reason which this also does touch on, Believer brings multiple people of multiple beliefs together for a common goal; there's Catholics, there's Baptists, there's pastors and spiritual healers all fighting to help the two girls, which is a nice statement.
Aside from the two teens who took on a rather dramatic challenge, none of the performances were particularly memorable. Not even the star of the original Ellen Burstyn. It was certainly nice to see her reprise her role as Chris MacNeil but she had so little involvement that it was just ultimately a waste. Ok she's 90 years old but one would still hope that she will be more prominently featured in the future but, well, we'll see about that.
Overall The Exorcist: Believer just isn't very good; not as a sequel, a reboot or even as a film by itself. Would I recommend skipping it altogether? No. But I would recommend not getting your hopes up. If anything, it'll make you appreciate the original even more.