This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY ELLIOT LINES OCTOBER 4, 2023
The Exorcist franchise, a household name in the horror genre, up to this point comprised of 5 films. The original 1973 film is widely regarded as one of the top horror films of all time, but it's safe to say the subsequent films haven't quite met those standards. Jump to 2023 and The Exorcist: Believer, in which we have another "reboot" of a horror franchise spearheaded by director David Gordon Green (Halloween).
When high school girls, Angela (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia O'Neill), go missing and turn up 3 days later not remembering where they have been, it soon becomes apparent that something isn't quite right and the girls have been possessed. Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.), the father of Angela, seeks out help from Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) who came across the same demon when her child was possessed fifty years prior.
The Exorcist (1973) is one of the most recognised horror movies of the last 50 years and at the time of release scared the life out of it's viewers. When I personally came to it, many many years after release, that scare factor wasn't quite there for me, but I certainly appreciated the significance of the film and the reception it got. The Exorcist: Believer, a direct sequel to The Exorcist, feels like a genuine attempt from David Gordon Green to recapture the ambiance of that original film, without feeling like a cheap knockoff.
The film builds at a fairly slow pace, with plenty of focus of setting up the characters at the center of this ordeal. It's not until around half way through that we see glimpses of the girls in their possessed states, and it's in these early moments that the scariest parts are prominent. Angela and Katherine are slowly being taken over, and the people that are closest to them are seeing their loved ones slip away, but not understanding how. Once the demon takes full control however is where the film loses that scare factor, there's no more element of surprise, and no longer the need for jump scares (which are the most effective in my opinion). However, the film comes to an end in a pleasing final act that's filled with shocks and twists, along with some great VFX and performances from these two young actress'.
In these final moments both Lidya Jewett and Olivia O'Neill are the standouts. Both relatively unknown, they portray fear into those people around them trying to help, and although it may not have come across as scary on screen you could certainly feel what fear it would strike if you were put in that situation. They way in which these characters looked in this moment cast you back to that iconic Reagan imagery of her on the bed, and this whole final act felt like a montage to those moments in that room 50 years ago.
The Exorcist: Believer could've quite easily been a total dud, a pointless return to this universe and another unnecessary reboot. The film certainly has it's issues, but there was moments here that cast your mind back to the original. David Gordon Green has made an entertaining and satisfying sequel, even if there weren't enough scares to keep you awake at night.