The Exorcist: Believer is the sixth movie in the franchise and the first sequel since 1990’s The Exorcist III. Along with co-writer Danny McBride, David Gordon Green is to blame for the latest Halloween trilogy that returned Jamie Lee Curtis to the role of Laurie Strode, and now Green brings his bland and uninspired vision to The Exorcist. I thought that we all decided to take David Gordon Green’s horror toys away and make him direct a sequel to Your Highness (2011).
Leslie Odom Jr. does his best in the lead role, and Ann Dowd always adds gravitas to anything she’s in. The story follows two young girls who get possessed after they run off into the woods. Odom plays one of the girl’s father, a bereaved single dad who doesn’t believe in God. If we had learned this little character detail at the beginning, then there might be an interesting character arc, as the father would have to overcome his atheism in order to save his daughter, but unfortunately, The Exorcist: Believer isn’t interested in pesky annoyances like character development.
Ellen Burstyn comes back to the franchise, and the things that they do to Burstyn’s character in The Exorcist: Believer should be federal crimes punished by watching David Gordon Green films like Manglehorn (2014) on a loop. Halloween Kills (2021), in which Jamie Lee Curtis spends most of the film in a hospital bed, should have proven that Green cannot treat legacy characters with the respect they deserve, so it should be no surprise that a similar thing happens with Burstyn.
The actual exorcism is decently shot and choreographed, and it is interesting that the film included many denominations of Christianity in the final sequence. But that is where any good element about The Exorcist: Believer begins and ends. Whatever is interesting about this film is far more compelling in the original 1973 film.
Because audiences generally ignore good original films like The Creator, which came in a disappointing third place at the domestic box office, we get rebooted horror franchises like The Exorcist: Believer that slowly whittle down the genre with cheap jump scares and unoriginal, hackneyed story-telling. The trend is unlikely to end, and that makes it all the more tiring.