REVIEW: The Exorcist Believer is afraid to get too scary
The Exorcist Believer arrives in cinemas this week.
In a parallel universe, The Exorcist Believer would arrive in cinemas just titled Believer, completely unconnected to arguably the greatest horror movie ever made, and the reaction would likely be very different.
However, by so aggressively connecting its DNA to that 1973 classic, up to and including bringing back stars from the original movie, there is no alternative but to inherently compare them. That only gets more complicated when you remember that The Exorcist has already had four movie sequels and prequels, as well as a very well regarded TV series. Anyone with the idea that this horror franchise is untouchable has been wrong since the first sequel arrived in 1977.
Added to this is the fact that The Exorcist Believer is coming from the same writer/director team who recently gave us the Halloween trilogy, another decades-later return to a classic horror series with returning stars of the original movie, which consisted of one quite good movie and two quite bad movies.
And as if that wasn't enough, Universal have already confirmed that The Exorcist Believer will be the first in a new trilogy in the series, with The Exorcist Deceiver confirmed for April 2025. Rarely has a scary movie arrived with so much baggage in its own past, present and future, but with all of that in mind, is this movie actually any good?
The Exorcist Believer might make for a good Friday night cinema visit, but not much else
Following an earthquake sequence in Haiti which kills his pregnant wife, we jump forward 13 years to find Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) and his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) having the kind of almost-perfect father-daughter relationship that only really exists in the movies. One day after school, Angela and her BFF Katherine (Olivia Marcum) head into the woods to perform a sort of seance, but instead they go missing for three days, and when they return they have no memory of the last 72 hours.
The initial joy of being reunited with the missing children is quickly replaced by the creeping dread that something terrible has happened to them while they were gone, and soon Victor's highly religious neighbour (Ann Dowd) begins to suspect that a possession has taken place, and she reaches out to someone who has had to deal with this before (which is how Ellen Burstyn gets involved).
Genuinely, there are some great moments to be found in the surprisingly brief 111-minute runtime, with some attempts at diving into the intersectionality between religion, science and burgeoning sexuality that the first movie menacingly unravelled, including a "We're just making sure you're okay" medical check-up that is likely as emotionally and/or psychologically traumatising as any of the actual horror surrounding it. There is also an attempt at widening the goals a bit further in terms of Christianity being the one and only way to save a soul.
However, they all just feel like window dressing to a scary movie that ultimately feels closer in spirit to The Conjuring or Sinister, aiming for pleasing the masses rather than leaving any kind of lasting impression. And that would all be totally fine... if the movie was actually scary, which it unfortunately isn't. A handful of SUDDENLY VERY LOUD jump scares aside, there is no real sense of actual horror on display here, and absolutely nothing as shocking as what we got five decades ago.
So, again, had this movie just been called Believer, we might have catalogued it alongside the likes of The Last Exorcism or The Exorcist Of Emily Rose as low-key, forgettable horrors. But as The Exorcist Believer, while it isn't even the worst sequel within its own franchise, it is likely to be the most forgettable. Here is hoping they ramp up the actual horror for the next one.
The Exorcist Believer arrives in cinemas on Friday 6 October.
- The Departed alternative ending would've ruined the movie
- John Wick action director gives The Raid remake update
- Fan favourite Bond director reveals he doesn't want the gig
- 25 years ago this week, we got the best car chase scene in cinema history
- REVIEW: Bargain deserves to be this year's Squid Game
- Taylor Swift's record-breaking concert movie is coming to Ireland