October fifth heralds the return of the legendary Exorcist. Can David Gordon Green and Danny McBride deliver an installment that lives up to the intensity of Exorcist and Exorcist III??
Or, are we stuck with another dreary entry in the hit and miss nature of this franchise?
Unfortunately, it’s the latter. Some spoiler information will follow, so please skip to the last paragraph if you wish to remain fresh.
Exorcist Believer, directed by David Gordon Green (Halloween 2018, Pineapple Express) hints at bringing new ideas to the table. However, the film subverts each teasing of intrigue, clumsily kicking everything to the floor in favour of bombastic spectacle. Scott Teems and Danny McBride use all the usual possession movie clichés, resulting in another forgettable addition to the already crowded genre of horror films about possession..
Despite these woes, the film presents some interesting ideas.. Victor (Leslie Odom Jr), raises his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) alone after her mother is killed during an earthquake. Victor is forced to choose between mother and child at birth.
Angela and her classmate Katherine decide to go into the woods and do a pendulum oracle session in a ruined basement.. Angela is motivated to commune with her mother spiritually, and it is obvious that Katherine is curiously along for the ride, but the location itself makes no sense.. This kicks off a trend through Exorcist Believer, all style with little substance.
The girls vanish for three days, leaving their parents in distress and aiding in the search..
Found early the fourth day, they welcome the kids back with overwhelming relief. Angela and Katherine have no memory of their disappearance. No time is wasted before a series of odd, creepy behaviour patterns are presented and we go full tilt Pazuzu.
At least, it’s assumed we’re dealing with Pazuzu again as no there is no formal confirmation. The second half of the film focuses on a diverse group of people from different religions and cultures coming together to fight the demon.. The issue is that there isn’t enough screen time to fully explore the characters and their flaws before the exorcism. Bad things happen to characters who we don’t know and it’s neither scary, nor emotionally impactful.
Special mention needs to be made of Ann Dowd who offers a decent take on her character as nurse and neighbour, secretly disgraced ex-nun. As well as Okwui Okpokwasili who is offering the best performance she can within the confines of the magical negro trope.
Another let down is the way the film pulls its punches and fails to push events to the extreme. The movie has horrific effects and makeup, but the story and performances don’t capture the unsettling and innocent-destroying essence that makes these films scary. There are many opportunities to take it further as scenes unfold on screen, but all punches are pulled. Perhaps there is a director’s cut waiting for home release.
The worst part of Exorcist Beleiver is convincing Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair to return, only to ignore them throughout the entire movie. Two more Exorcist films in David Gordon Green’s latest trilogy resurrection effort are projected for development, so it could be fair to argue that Chris and Regan MacNeil might play a larger role later. With this single entry though, teasing an audience with this return and pushing them aside is very disappointing.
Exorcist Believer is in cinema now. It’s a pulpy affair compared to the masterwork of Friedkin’s original and Blatty’s Legion (Exorcist III), Believer is a shoddy 5/10 despoiled innocents that is neither scary nor exciting, with some moody and stylish direction. It’s time David Gordon Green and Danny McBride to let horror history go and work on creating their own terrifying franchise, instead of continuing to bring back legends of the past with such lacklustre flair.