After attempting to deliver sequels to Halloween (1978), filmmakers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride tried to do the same with The Exorcist franchise. Though their Halloween installments met mixed reactions, the filmmakers remained undaunted in their attempt to enrich the cinematic world, first launched by writer William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin in 1973. Given that the first movie and story are so iconic in horror, Green, McBride, and their associates have taken on what seems to be an impossible challenge. How can any sequel give the original film the justice it deserves?
This attempt has been made multiple times, with varied results, so does The Exorcist: Believer stand nearly as tall as its iconic predecessor? The movie appears to be a solid attempt on the filmmaker’s part, but ultimately, it comes across as another exercise in mediocrity. Though the film has its share of genuine scares, nothing will ever compare to the experience the first movie gives its audiences.
In our modern setting, two young middle-school-aged girls and best friends, Angela (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia Marcum), go missing for several days after what should have been a typical day at school. Though the two girls eventually reappear, something is wrong with their personalities. It soon becomes apparent that both young ladies may have become possessed by a demonic spirit, and the parents are left desperate for religious intervention. Though Angela’s father has no religious beliefs, he seeks out the help of someone with previous experience. That person is Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), a former actress whose daughter Regan (Linda Blair) was possessed at a very young age.
The reviews have been horrible for this movie, but I can’t entirely agree with this consensus. The Exorcist: Believer is not an awful sequel. The Exorcist II: The Heretic is a horrible sequel. This movie never tanks as severely as the first sequel to this franchise. However, this movie has problems of its own.
Unless a filmmaker has something boldly dynamic to deliver, there is no way an Exorcist sequel can succeed. The Exorcist III at least has a different type of story to enrich the franchise. Unfortunately, this movie feels very much by the numbers and plays it way too safely.
Including other religions in its story adds to the mythology of possession, which adds a rather exciting element to the story. Demonic possession is not exclusive to the Catholic Church, and I appreciated this idea’s inclusion in the story. Still, the exorcism climax to the movie comes across as uninspired and not so exciting. In addition, there are a few callbacks to the original film, which feel forced and unnecessary.
The cast delivers fine performances. They put much heart and passion into their work, but the lackluster writing downplays their solid work. Again, The Exorcist: Believer is not a horrendous movie. It doesn’t add much to the lore of the MacNeil family and their fight against evil. It is impossible to top the impact of The Exorcist, and this new sequel barely scratches the surface.