The Exorcist is a classic horror film that has maintained its position as a fan favorite and a cultural phenomenon to this day. The 1973 original was a masterpiece of suspense, terror, and intrigue, sparing no one who dared to take this horror journey. The franchise tried to recapture its former glory with sequels, prequels, and TV series, with varied success. The latest addition to the series, The Exorcist: Believer, tried to deliver a similar haunting tale but failed.
Believer follows Victor Fielding, who has been raising his daughter, Angela, since his wife’s death twelve years ago. Angela and her friend Katherine disappear in the woods, only to reappear three days later, with no memory of what happened. Victor seeks help from Chris MacNeil, the only person alive who has witnessed something like this before. The film starts promising, with a suspenseful and exciting plot, but it fails to maintain the momentum and falls short in execution.
The Exorcist: Believer tries to lean into the world-building of the original, but it’s nowhere near as effective. The film relies heavily on jump scares, which becomes predictable and numbing after a while. The climactic exorcism, which should be the movie’s selling point, falls flat in execution. The original’s themes of good vs. evil, faith vs. doubt, and the power of love are reduced to a bare-bone imitation, failing to deliver what made the original so compelling.
Ellen Burstyn‘s performance as Chris MacNeil is one of the film’s highlights, but it’s not enough to salvage the movie. At age 90, her presence brings a sense of gravitas, but the film ultimately fails to give her a storyline that complements her talents. The rest of the cast is forgettable, with weak character development and superficial interactions that fail to involve the audience emotionally.
The Exorcist‘s iconic imagery set the bar high for any horror movie that followed, and to recreate or improve upon it was an impossible task from the start. The Exorcist: Believer tries to pay homage to the original, but it falls short in every aspect. The film descends into a cheesy, straight-to-streaming rip-off, completely disregarding the legacy of the original. Even as a standalone film, it fails to deliver on suspense, terror, or plot, making it a frustrating experience to watch.
The Exorcist: Believer is a forgettable sequel that fails to live up to its predecessor’s legacy. The film tries to lean into the original’s strengths but falls short in every aspect. Its world-building is superficial, jump scares are predictable, and the climactic exorcism is underwhelming. Even Ellen Burstyn’s exceptional performance can’t salvage the movie, with weak character development and unmemorable co-stars. The Exorcist franchise should’ve stopped a long time ago, and The Exorcist: Believer should serve as an example of why some stories should rest in peace. Luckily we have two more films in this new trilogy left…said with sarcasm.
The Exorcist: Believer hit theaters on October 6, 2023.
This review is a Feature Review during the Capes and Tights Horror Week 2023.