When it comes to jump scares, The Exorcist: Believer (produced by Universal, Blumhouse, and Morgan Creek) doesn’t skimp on creating quick frights. From the very outset, it delivers a spine-tingling jump scare that sets the ominous tone for the impending horror. But, as we delve into this demonic tale, we discover that relying too heavily on this trope can have its drawbacks, and it soon overshadows other aspects of the film.
When it comes to the pantheon of horror films, few can claim the iconic status of 1973’s Exorcist. Crafted by the late maestro William Friedkin, it remains an unparalleled benchmark in the genre’s history. So, when the news broke that David Gordon Green, celebrated for his contributions to the Halloween trilogy, was steering the new franchise into reboots, fans held their breath in anticipation. It’s an audacious endeavour, especially since the first film won multiple Academy Awards. The question hung heavy: Could a sequel even hope to hold a flickering candle to the original?
Comparing movies can be a tricky business, but when you’re tasked with creating a sequel to a cinematic legend, comparisons are inevitable. But even when contrasting this film with the other Exorcist films in the franchise, they all soar far above Believer – which is especially disappointing since the plot showed promise.
Victor Fielding, portrayed by Oscar nominee and Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr., has been on a solo journey since the heart-wrenching loss of his pregnant wife in a cataclysmic Haitian earthquake 12 years ago. His only anchor in the chaos is their daughter, Angela, played by Lidya Jewett (Good Girls).
The story takes a wicked twist when Angela and her friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum) vanish into the mysterious woods. Three days later, they reappear, haunted by amnesia, clueless about their eerie escapade. This is where things step up a notch, and an unholy chain of events unfurls.
Of course, Victor embarks on a quest to find the solitary soul who’s faced such evil before – Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn).
One of The Exorcist: Believer‘s missed opportunities lies in the realm of character development. While the plot unfolds, it becomes increasingly challenging to connect with any of the characters. This is particularly unfortunate because the potential for exploring the relationship between the protagonist and his daughter could have added a layer of emotional depth to the story.
Also, for those seeking an untainted cinematic experience, a word of caution: steer clear of the trailers for The Exorcist: Believer. Strangely, the trailers might actually seem more enticing than the movie itself, which could be a letdown for those expecting nail-biting horror. It also shows all the best moments.
While much of the ensemble cast delivers performances that fade into the background, it’s the two girls ensnared by demonic possession who command attention. Their metamorphosis from innocents to unholy entities is a riveting transformation. Nevertheless, a deeper exploration of their characters prior to possession could have injected even greater profundity into their roles.
Despite their potential, the possessed girls aren’t fully utilized to create tension or genuinely creepy moments. The Exorcist: Believer leans heavily on jump scares when it could have delved deeper into their possession, offering more chilling and suspenseful scenes.
Visually, the progression of possession is commendably executed, thanks to the use of prosthetics and body deformation. This aspect of the film stands out as genuinely impressive. In contrast, the film’s music plays only a minor role. A more creative use of the soundtrack to build tension and expectation could have elevated the horror experience.
Truthfully, The Exorcist: Believer may have you on the edge of your seat, but it also leaves you wondering if it could have been so much more. I won’t label it as a terrible movie, but it’s definitely a missed opportunity to resurrect the classic franchise.