Horror Movie Review: The Exorcist: Believer (2023)

The lack of imagination in mainstream horror has finally hit its peak with The Exorcist: Believer. Having wrapped up his Halloween trilogy, David Gordon Green has moved on to The Exorcist franchise, and Believer is the first entry in a new planned trilogy. One that begins as a direct sequel to the original movie only.

Which isn’t a bad thing as The Exorcist doesn’t really have sequels, and certainly not sequels/prequels worth getting excited about (aside from the third film). We know, we’ve reviewed most of them and you can read those reviews below.

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The Exorcist
Exorcist II: The Heretic
The Exorcist III
Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

The Exorcist: Believer is the sixth instalment in the franchise to date, and while it’s not the worst entry (say hello Exorcist II: The Heretic), it’s an extremely bad movie. Yet, it is often so bad, it almost becomes entertaining. What things it does well, and there are a few, simply can’t outweigh the things it does so poorly.

Starring Leslie Odom Jr., Lidya Jewett, Olivia O‘Neill, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Ann Dowd, and Ellen Burstyn. It would be better to view The Exorcist: Believer as just another paranormal possession flick rather than an Exorcist film.

By attaching that name, bringing back an original character, in pointless fashion, and hilariously jamming in another awkward cameo, The Exorcist: Believer wants you to see this as an Exorcist movie.

Fine, then it is going to be judged as such.

The story revolves around the character of Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr) and is pre-teen daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewett). Having lost his wife during a Haitian earthquake while she was pregnant with Angela, Victor has raised the girl alone and is very protective of her.

However, he knows he must loosen his grip as she wants to spend more time with her friends, so he agrees to let her hang out with her friend Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) after school. So, what do two young girls do after school? They conduct a séance in the woods of course. One to contact Angela’s mother and one that has grave consequences.

The kids go missing for three days, then when they are found in a barn, they have no memory of the past few days. They mostly seem unharmed, aside from burns on their feet, and their personality changes are put down to the traumatising events. That is until Angela attacks Victor and Katherine makes on hell of a scene at Church.

Do you know what’s better than one possession? Try two possessions! You can almost hear the pitch in the writer’s room.

Will Victor and his neighbours be able to save the souls of Angela and Katherine?

The Exorcist: Believer’s story really is as humdrum as is sounds. Lacking any imaginative twists or turns and playing out in predictable fashion. It’s incredibly jarring just how few risks this movie takes, playing out like any other possession horror that has been churned out over the last decade.

It’s not possible to replicate the original, and they would have been fools for trying, but horror has come a long way and there is simply no excuse to not up the ante here. In fact, it’s so tame, it ended up getting a 15-certificate in the UK, and that is never a good sign.

Yet, that could be forgiven if The Exorcist: Believer was at least psychologically inventive, yet it is not. It ham-fistedly tries to combine different beliefs, embarrasses itself by trying to tell a ‘loss of faith’ story, and fails to capture the trauma of the varying characters. It’s got the depth of a puddle, made all the worse by packing in so many characters, that most seem pointless. You know you’ve failed as story when even remembering the names of characters is hard work.

So many times, The Exorcist: Believer has an open goal for a development but almost always shoots wide. It never commits to anything, never pushes the boundaries, never offends, excites, horrifies, or causes any reaction aside from delivering tried and tested jump scares. That is the limit of The Exorcist: Believer’s imagination.

As bad as many entries in the franchise are, they at least took risks, The Exorcist: Believer is all about safety and in an attempt to please everyone, it pleases no-one. You won’t feel frightened, you won’t feel dread, you won’t feel tense, you simply won’t feel anything.

Case in point, the return of Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, who doesn’t belong in this movie. In fact, had her part not been included, it wouldn’t affect the story in the slightest. This, and another hilarious cameo at the end, is designed only to get a cheer from an audience who live on nostalgia. Which is fine, if it makes sense, something Green was able to do with his Halloween trilogy, but that is not the case here.

The Exorcist: Believer leaves no impact, yet it features some strong acting across the board, good visuals, and some interesting concepts. The idea of including other religious practices and perspectives is clever. The idea of the Catholic Church being next to useless is believable. The idea of spiritual connections being as important as religious connections is welcome. The Exorcist: Believer has things simmering in the background but fails to utilise them in a meaningful way.

Most will lose their sense of frustration and exasperation by the halfway point as it’s not just worth the energy. If the creators aren’t trying, why should you? Instead, it becomes a game of seeing what dumb turn is going to come next. What awkward square peg are they going to try to jam into a round hole next?

Had this been called something like The Possession: Believer, it would be nothing more than cliff note in a year that has seen some strong horror entries. It would be nothing more than an average possession-based horror and that’s that. However, it’s calling itself The Exorcist: Believer and that comes with hefty expectations. So, it’s worse than your average possession horror because it chose to associate itself with an iconic piece of horror cinema.

It is an embarrassment to a franchise that already has a lot of reasons to be shame-faced.




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  • Carl Fisher

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The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
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