film / tv / substack / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / substack / web / celeb


'The Exorcist: Believer' Review: David Gordon Green Needs to Be Stopped

By Sara Clements | Film | October 7, 2023 |

By Sara Clements | Film | October 7, 2023 |


David Gordon Green can’t let evil rest in Hell. First, it was Michael Myers. Now, Pazuzu. One Letterboxd user says that the director is “out here ruining iconic franchises like [he’s] the CEO of Disney.” It sure feels like it. At first, his foray into the battle between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode seemed promising, with a first Halloween entry that’s quite good. But this was followed by two more that were a disappointment. Would his take on William Friedkin’s The Exorcist follow the same pattern? Unfortunately, he’s starting with disaster.

Without the iconic title, The Exorcist: Believer is serviceable at best. It’s just your typical, not-very-good possession movie — not helping the “possession fatigue” that I mentioned in a previous review. Being in the shadow of one of the most celebrated horror works of all time, Green’s latest film has to prove to its audience why it needs to exist — something he fails to do.

The Exorcist: Believer starts strong, setting the scene in the vibrant Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We are privy to the spirituality of its locals when Sorenne (Tracey Graves) receives a blessing of protection for her unborn child, Angela (Lidya Jewett). Then, the buoyant opening takes a darker turn as a devastating earthquake rocks the capital city. Sorenne is caught in the rubble and her husband, Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.), is faced with the choice of saving his wife or his daughter. Fast forward years later, Angela is alive but her mother is not. This loss lingers, permeating Victor and Angela’s new life in Georgia. Soon, however, tragedy comes a little too close for comfort once again.

One day after school, Angela and her friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum) decide to hang out in the woods and try to communicate with the dead. In particular, Angela’s mother. A stupid decision born out of grief that leads to the girls disappearing for three days. It’s a stressful, tense search that keeps this first half engaging. When they are found, they’re no longer the same, and something evil has followed them home. While Katherine’s religious mother and father (Jennifer Nettles and Norbert Leo Butz) automatically point the figure at the devil, Victor believes there’s a psychological explanation. That is until his neighbor, Paula (Ann Dowd), gives him a book written by Chris MacNeil (​​Ellen Burstyn reprising her role) — the woman who may hold the key to saving Angela and Katherine.

The father-daughter relationship between Victor and Angela is the film’s heart and works as an effective emotional hook, so having two possessed girls is pointless as Katherine takes a backseat. Unfortunately, we don’t spend as much time with Katherine and her family to care as much about their plight, resulting in a hollow ending. Katherine’s purpose is to act as a replacement for Regan, seemingly to provide closure to Chris and to help her understand what she witnessed all those years ago. However, this isn’t explored with any depth and Burstyn’s return is a total waste, especially with what happens to her character. The movie goes completely off the rails after that.

One of the few pieces of praise that can be provided, however, is that Angela’s transformation is much more gradual than Regan’s. Regan is completely fine one minute, and the next, she’s swearing up a storm in her doctor’s office. The change doesn’t feel so sudden here. The film’s strength also lies in its presentation of endurance and healing through the strength of community. A group of “regular” people banding together to fight against evil feels more fulfilling, especially when they all carry different beliefs.

Nothing is scary about The Exorcist: Believer. There’s one good jump scare in the beginning, and that’s it. My audience laughed more than jumped in fright. Many moments meant to scare are more awkwardly funny in execution, even the exorcism scene. It just drags and drags and drags. The saving grace is Odom Jr., who does all the heavy lifting to keep the audience somewhat emotionally invested. After all these years, The Exorcist is still more shocking and squirm-inducing than whatever Green is doing here. This speaks a lot about the power of practical effects and makeup to create the perfect, terrifying atmosphere - for which this film has none. Also, let me be clear, under different circumstances I would not condone the use of AI, but we needed to bring Mercedes McCambridge back from the dead on this one. Just like the film’s characters, you just want it to be over - but for a different reason.

The Exorcist: Believer is a completely wasted and unnecessary use of I.P. David Gordon Green needs to be stopped, but at least Burstyn got a scholarship for young actors out of the deal.