‘The Exorcist: Believer’ Is an Entertaining, Yet Faulty, Start of a New Trilogy – Review
*This review was published during the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strikes. At GoC, we fully support the creatives who are part of the SAG-AFTRA strike and are working toward getting fair payment and treatment for all their work.
40 years after a young girl saw her body taken by a demonic entity, The Exorcist: Believer returns to the universe where such horrifying manifestations are possible, with David Gordon Green bringing audiences a sequel that struggles with finding out what tone it wants for its narrative. The shock and disgust caused by the possessions takes a new form for modern audiences, in a story that sometimes delivers on what it promises. However, while the new installment contains plenty of flaws within its return to the universe established in 1973, the scares and atmosphere creates during its first act make it worth the trip to the cinema.
Leslie Odom Jr. stars as Victor Fielding, the father of Angela (Lydia Jewett), and a man who lost his wife during a natural disaster. Despite having to raise his baby as a single parent, Victor has always tried to be present for his daughter, while staying away from any organized religion. On the other hand, Katherine (Olivia Marcum) had grown up in a very religious family, but their mild manners had always ensured the girl turned out to be a good person with everyone. None of them could predict the terrible events that would take place when the girls took a walk in the woods alone.
When the two girls are nowhere to be found, their parents go to the police in an effort to find out what had happened to them. Since Angela wanted to speak directly to her deceased mother, the two girls had organized a spiritual session in the middle of the woods, but their vulnerable state allowed an evil spirit to attach itself to them, starting the aggressive part of the film’s plot. The girls had brought something into their house, and it wouldn’t let them go very easily. It was time for the adults to start looking for alternative solutions to their problem, regardless of their beliefs.
The first act of the story is where The Exorcist: Believer truly shines, with the confusion felt between the major characters as they have no idea what’s going on, feeling sincere as they discover more about the monster that has entered their lives. Green creates an atmosphere that seems to know exactly what the viewer is expecting, turning expectations on their head as he places the scary imagery and loud noises in unexpected places. A girl losing her mind to the evil entity, a confused father not being able to explain what’s happening to his child and the inevitable tension of the conflict thrive in a brilliant set up of what’s coming for Angela and Katherine.
One of the things the first installment of a planned trilogy managed to do so well was building the bond between Victor and his daughter, making them grow closer together while the monster in the girl’s body is trying to tear them apart. Instead of simply mentioning that the pair got along or suggesting that Victor wanted to become a better parent through dialogue, The Exorcist: Believer consistently shows the Fieldings attempting to come to terms with their complicated situation while showing love towards one another. Major horror releases are mostly about processing difficult emotions, and the core of this sequel is the sincere willingness to improve the bond of a daughter and her father.
That said, along the way of the visual reveal of the makeup seen in the 1973 classic and the inclusion of Ellen Burstyn reprising her role as Chris MacNeil, The Exorcist: Believer seems to forget what it wanted to do in the first place. The tense narrative established during the beginning of the sequel is lost in favour of a constant change between a serious horror story and a movie that wants to embrace the campier aspects of the genre in its entirety. The result is an unpredictable film there the tone is rough around the edges and its main characters run out of options to get rid of the evil that has entered their homes.
With a couple of questionable decisions leaving the narrative in a state of confusion, The Exorcist: Believer is still a worthy experience, entertaining in different ways as two families try to recover from the same traumatic incident. Odom Jr. shines in his performance as a man who will stop at nothing to keep his daughter safe, in a sequel the slowly builds up towards an explosive conclusion. There’s room for improvement in this start of a potential trilogy, but Green has established something special in the continuation of one of the most iconic horror movies of all time.