‘The Exorcist: Believer’ movie review: David Gordon Green cannot bring Halloween magic into this reboot, despite roping in Ellen Burstyn 

However much you want to like this ‘Exorcist’ legacy sequel, and shiver in sympathetic horror, this reimagining of the classic shocker is a solemn bore

Updated - October 06, 2023 05:40 pm IST

Published - October 06, 2023 05:14 pm IST

A still from ‘The Exorcist: Believer’

A still from ‘The Exorcist: Believer’

Who is the believer of the title? Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.), the single father bringing up Angela (Lidya Jewett), after his wife Sorenne (Tracey Graves) dies of injuries sustained in an earthquake in Haiti? The nurse Ann (Ann Dowd) who left the nunnery, pastor Don (Raphael Sbarge), Pentecostal preacher Stuart (Danny McCarthy), Father Maddox (E.J. Bonilla), or the audience, including yours truly, who religiously go to the cinema hoping for salvation in the form of a good movie? Ritualistic healer Beehibe (Okwui Okpokwasili), incidentally, has no deficit in the faith department

The Exorcist: Believer
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Leslie Odom Jr., Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum, Ellen Burstyn
Story line: Two girls go into the woods and bring back something unsavoury
Run time: 111 minutes

Angela and her best friend, Katherine (Olivia Marcum) go into the woods one day after school to commune with the spirits — Angela just wants to get to know her mum. But then, the girls go missing much to the despair of Victor and Katherine’s parents, Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) and Tony (Norbert Leo Butz).

Three days later, Angela and Katherine are found 30 miles away in a farmer’s barn with no memory of what happened in the intervening time. Tests and toxicology show the girls have not been interfered with. However, Victor realises something is dreadfully different about Angela; Miranda and Tony also find the same about Katherine rather dramatically during service at church.

After medical science is not able to help and the Catholic Church washes its hands off the affair, Victor seeks the help of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), another parent who had to deal with the demonic possession of her 12-year-old daughter Regan (Linda Blair).

William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist (1971) about the possession of a young girl by a demon, and the war waged by her mother and a Catholic priest who has lost his faith, to save her, was made into a very successful film by William Friedkin in 1973 from a screenplay written by Blatty. There have been sequels and prequels with The Exorcist: Believer billed as a direct sequel. So it is still Pazuzu doing their mischief with projectile vomiting, and upside-down crucifixes.

David Gordon Green resurrected the Halloween franchise by bringing back the original Final Girl, Jamie Lee Curtis. The same principle has been applied to The Exorcist: Believer. The return of Burstyn, however, is not pivotal to the plot and ends up feeling gimmicky. Linda Blair only brings to mind Repossessed, which Blair starred in, Father Mayii (a hilarious Leslie Nielsen) and uncontrollable giggles.

Green has gone for slow-burn, but apart from that snake slithering away from the discarded shoes — which gave a bit of a start — The Exorcist: Believer moves as slow as drying paint. It is spooky month, the time for vampires and all other sorts of beasties to walk the earth and stalk our screens. The Exorcist: Believer is most definitely not one of them, but unfortunately, is the first of a planned trilogy.

The Exorcist: Believer is currently running in theatres

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