The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing me that a legacy sequel to The Exorcist in 2023 could actually live up to its potential. Sure, David Gordon Green’s ultra-disposable “Halloween” film trilogy didn’t inspire much hope that he’d fare better with an even holier horror franchise; on the contrary, it suggested that the former indie darling was hell-bent on destroying any trace of the promise he once showed. And secureThe eye-popping $400 million distribution deal that landed Green on reviving that brand was always going to be a mixed blessing — or a terrible curse — for a mainstream film whose market appeal rests on our collective memories of teenage girl penetration himself with a crucifix and shouted: “Let Jesus fuck you!”
But the fact that we live in a time of right-wing hysteria and renewed moral panic seemed like it could be… should be — an invitation to channel the spirit of William Friedkin and create something that feels even a fraction as transgressive as the original 1973 “Exorcist.” Ultimately, the work belongs to a subgenre that inherently reinforces Christian dogma , and is therefore given special permission to expand the boundaries of what the ecclesiastical public is willing to endure.
Despite the controversy that Friedkin’s classic generated in the Puritan community, The Exorcist is ultimately as “faith-based” as any of the films promoted on Fox News today (and significantly less scary than all five minutes of Gutfeld!). . “), and I hoped that returning the series to its roots would give Green the chance to reinvent “Pazuzu” for a generation of American parents who have been conditioned to fear a million different bogeymen in a country whose laws and reactionary political climate they represent a far more direct threat to their children.
[Editor’s note: The following sentence contains spoilers for “The Exorcist: Believer.]
My belief was deeply misplaced – and not just because The Exorcist: Believer is a hyper-conservative film that spends its entire running time tormenting its main character for prioritizing his wife’s well-being over the safety of her fetus (a Decision that…is only revealed to us at the end), but also because the only thing this hellish séance for 70s profits actually holds sacred is its own intellectual property.
“Believer” is a disgusting film that can be compensated by almost nothing except Leslie Odom Jr.’s well-modulated lead performance and the atmospheric unease that Green spreads in the first half of the story. The entire concept of sacrilege boils down to this, the legacy endangering his franchise.
Maybe this wouldn’t be such a sticking point if “Believer” didn’t also do such a lazy job exhume the legacy of his franchise. Indeed, in no recent film can one imagine a more damning self-exposure than the scene in which the demons in Green’s possessed teenagers attempt to prove their unholiness by repeating the very same dialogue that angered audiences 50 years ago. If there’s even a nominal effort to suggest that we’re dealing with the same demon that once made Linda Blair feel bad for a few days (no disrespect, but I’ve had worse sinus headaches than Pazuzu), then Is that actually true? In the end it gets even more embarrassing: Evil never rests, and yet half a century of preparation – a period that included diabolical innovations like Reaganomics, the war on drugs and the rise of QR code restaurant menus – was still there not long enough for this Prince of Darkness to come up with a new trick.
I suppose that’s to be expected in an age where such legacy sequels feel legally obligated to deliver more of the same. Based on a story credited to Green, Scott Teems and Danny McBride, Green and Peter Sattler’s screenplay hits the hits right from the start as it recalls the original Exorcist by immersing us in a sultry and “exotic.” “ Kidnapped to a land far away where most of the action will take place. Instead of Iraq, “Believer” begins in Haiti, and instead of a moody prologue full of mystery, it begins with a cheap jump scare (and I mean the very first one). framewhich foreshadows a film whose sporadic jolts were apparently added in post after it emerged that Green had inadvertently forgotten to include other sources of suspense.
The scariest thing about this opening sequence, of course, isn’t a barking dog on the streets of Port-au-Prince, but the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to stop the 2010 earthquake, which killed between 100,000 and 100,000 people. carelessly using 316,000 people as context for the choice that American tourist Victor Fielding (Odom) must make between his way too pregnant to travel Woman and the fetus that looked like it was going to pop out at any moment. It’s like when Robert Pattinson’s ill-fated drama Remember Me used 9/11 as a plot twist, but what’s worse is how it co-opted another country’s national tragedy for its own stupid cause.
Cut to: Thirteen years later, as Victor is a single father raising his daughter Angela – the impressively committed newcomer Lidya Jewett – in a Georgia suburb so ripe for Satan that Ann Dowd is his neighbor. An emergency room doctor whose overzealousness masks a genuine concern as opposed to a cult ulterior motive, she’s an unnatural type, but it becomes hard to tell the difference after it turns out she’s an ex-nun (short, Dowd-related Spoilers follow). who still regrets the abortion she had before taking her vows.
Either way, Victor is as overprotective of Angela as you might expect, so it’s a turning point when he agrees to let his daughter hang out with her friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum) after school. Angela tells him that they will do homework together, but only because her father would probably say no if she told him actually Plans for the afternoon: Walk into the spooky forest outside the school, enter some kind of sunken nightmare, and accidentally open a portal to Hell in a misguided attempt to communicate with Angela’s mother. The details of their machinations are sketched out in broad strokes, as the first half of the film revolves around the mystery of what really happened to these girls and why they disappeared for three days (like Jesus!) before reappearing at a random farmhouse about 30 miles away.
Of course it’s not a big secret usbecause we know that this movie is called The Exorcist, even if we haven’t found out yet that it won’t introduce one at any point actually Exorcist. “Believer” instead opts for a multi-faith coalition of amateurs that includes a feckless local priest, a spiritualist played by “Madeline” actor Okwui Okpokwasili, and Katherine’s evangelical parents, whose shattered faith is replaced with the kind of divine trust which is uniquely upper middle class white Christians in a country that is becoming less secular by the day.
A tepid scene in which the newly possessed Katherine attends Sunday morning church service demonstrates this film’s ability to get to grips with even the simplest fastballs, but “Believer” is in the brief phase where the girls’ parents struggle. to understand the film, yet at its best, what happens to her daughters. Odom does a good job of playing heartbreaking confusion; His face conveys the fear of not being able to understand or protect your children (whether they are inhabited by Satan or simply going through puberty), and Green taps into this fear in the straightforward but effective sequence where Victor realizes that the horror is there and comes from inside the house.
Unfortunately, any trace of depth or texture is lost faster than Damien Karras when everyone agrees that Angela and Katherine are possessed – a diagnosis that doesn’t leave much room for skepticism – or eye-rolling dialogue scenes about how difficult it is for Victor accepts things that are outside his belief system – after the girls start acting out and smelling bad, two things that would never happen to 13 year olds under other circumstances. It doesn’t help that the devil is portrayed as little more than a Deadpool-level troll who finds it funny that he knows he’s in an Exorcist movie. His signature move simply reminds people of their most poignant moral compromises, as if they didn’t already think about them every day of their lives; As if Victor had completely forgotten how he witnessed his heavily pregnant wife being crushed to death in an earthquake until a demon killed her nerve to remember it for him.
And so Victor does what any father would do in this situation: He stops Ellen Burstyn, OG “The Exorcist,” at the beach house she apparently bought with her share of the $400 million and asks for advice (this timeline is taken into account due to most of Burstyn’s scenes). cry with “huge reshoot energy,” none more so than the one in which she calmly monologues about our need for mutual trust just seconds after sustaining a traumatic injury that conveniently puts her out of commission for the rest of the film.
Burstyn’s appearance, pro forma is understatedly hilarious in any modern Legacy sequel because of the discrepancy between the trembling earnestness of the actress’s voice and the “Have I never seen this movie before?” energy of her character. Green attempts to reconcile these conflicting moods by alienating Chris MacNeil from the daughter she almost lost in the original film (which becomes another opportunity to shame Victor for the sin he committed in the prologue), but not even the combined power of heaven and hell would be powerful enough to save “Believer” from complete ruin once it delves into the past.
At this point, all that’s left is the exorcism itself, shot with all the tension of a Sunday morning sermon and evolving into a moral dilemma that once again forces the film’s parents to make a life-or-death decision for their children. like he’s testing Victor to see if he’s learned not to interfere with God’s plan. “Have faith,” Chris tells him (and us). By the time “The Exorcist: Believer” gets to its fittingly half-hearted whimper of a final scene, it’s almost impossible to make a case for it bad Faith is better than simply giving it up completely.
Universal Pictures will release “The Exorcist: Believer” in theaters on Friday, October 6th.