The Exorcist: Believer – movie review

Fifty years ago, The Exorcist rewrote the rule book. It was the first horror film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The loosely connected The Exorcist: Believer starts in colourful style in Haiti. Pregnant Sorenne Fielding (Tracey Graves) and her photographer husband Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) are on holiday. Then, all hell breaks loose.

Thirteen years later, Victor is left to raise their daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) on his own. They appear to have a positive relationship. Sorenne features strongly in Angela’s thinking, and she asks her father if she can spend the night with a school friend, Katherine (Olivia O’Neill). When she does, the pair disappears into the woods, only for Katherine to try to help Angela channel her mother … with disastrous consequences. The girls disappear.

With police assistance, Victor and Katherine’s God-fearing parents Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) and Tony (Norbert Leo Butz) mount a desperate search for her. They are understandably relieved when three days later the girls turn up, but their relief quickly turns to shock and then fear. Angela and Katherine are no longer the happy children they were. Rather, they are vessels for demons that have possessed them both. At first, Victor won’t hear of it, turning to conventional medicine for answers, but what he witnesses is truly terrifying. Desperate times call for desperate measures. A neighbour and nurse Ann (Ann Dowd) at the hospital where Angela is receiving treatment gives Victor a copy of a book written by Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn).

Her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) was possessed 50 years ago (and here, of course, is the link to the original Exorcist). Even MacNeil though is unable to turn the tide against this new evil. A non-church-endorsed exorcism is arranged.

The Exorcist: Believer is directed by David Gordon Green (Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends) and co-written by Green with Peter Sattler. I appreciated the background to the darkness that envelopes this piece. But then it seemed to take ages to ignite. The running time is similar to the original, but this franchise reboot is stretched beyond acceptance. Also, the exorcism is a laughable and elongated carry-on. Overall, I found there were too few jump-out-of-your-seat moments.

While the make-up was effective, the acting was largely pedestrian. I simply didn’t buy what they were trying so hard to sell. I appreciated the references to The Exorcist, which was ground-breaking at the time, although they won’t mean much to those who haven’t see it.

So while I entered the cinema with hope, I left disappointed.

Alex First

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