The Exorcist: Believer
Updated: Nov 19
David Gordon Green brings his bland horror take to the Exorcist franchise next
The Exorcist (1973) was the first horror film to break through as a blockbuster and critical success, becoming the highest grossing movie of all time upon its release and garnering the first Best Picture Oscar nomination for a horror film. This great success meant, of course, that Hollywood would milk its IP with endless sequels, yet The Exorcist franchise has not racked the prolificity of other horror franchises like Halloween or Friday the 13th. Enter David Gordon Green, fresh off his reboot/remake trilogy of Halloween.
The Exorcist: Believer (2023) focuses on the demonic possession of two girls, Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) and Angela (Lydia Jewett). We specifically follow the troubled single father of Angela, the photographer and widower Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.). Chris (Ellen Burnstyn) the mother of the original possessed girl (Linda Blair) in the 1973 film makes an appearance as a “consultant” of sorts to the troubled families.
The Exorcist: Believer works like many legacy sequels in recent years; taking the beats of the originating IP and retooling them with a modern lens. We’ve seen Creed (2015), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015),Halloween (2018), and Scream (2022), to varying degrees of success. In the worst cases, as is the case with Believer, this ploy waters down any sense of originality from the story, blunting the edges of what make original films groundbreaking.
Believer brings back the same creative team behind the last Halloween films, producer Jason Blum, screenwriters Danny McBride, Scott Teems, Peter Sattler, and director Gordon Green. The diminishing returns of that trilogy, which ended with the laughably bad Halloween Ends (2022), indicate a dire need for a reshuffling in their ranks. Believer doesn’t not offer much hope or redemption for them. Believer not only delivers a predictable and safe film, but fails to scare or create any tension as well. Worst of all the film bores viewers, as it dawdles for nearly an hour before delving into any sense of exorcism or possession.
Gordon Green, who started directing stoner films like Pineapple Express (2008) and indie darlings like George Washington (2000), has never felt comfortable in the horror genre, with his Halloween films veering into false communal sentimentality and frights coming from lazy and predictable jump scares. No sense of dread or stakes is raised at any point within Believer. Not even the exorcism scenes bring much entertainment, with a laughably ridiculous resolution being present to defeating the demon.
The Exorcist: Believer sleepwalks through its legacy sequel checkmarks, with Ellen Burnstyn’s involvement feeling more like a thankless cameo than a true contribution. Odom Jr. isn’t given much material to work with and is relegated to watching with concern from the sidelines. The young actresses playing the possessed girls are impressive enough, delivering the cackling malice. The makeup team also outperform themselves donning icky and creepy looks for the two demonic vessels.
Sadly, The Exorcist: Believer doesn’t conjure any of the frights or dread of its original film, which many consider the scariest film of all time. The creative horror team behind Believer deliver yet another bland and watered-down dud that is too ambitious to be a “so bad it’s good” and is thus relegated to the worst fate a film could suffer, being instantly forgetful.