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Review: The Exorcist - Believer
Do You Believe?
This is a quick review of the newly released film The Exorcist: The Believer. Keep in mind this is but one of the many movies I watch every year, and that whatever initial grade I come up for this film could change for better or worse with time. To better keep up to date with both my thoughts on other movies and if my feelings on this film changed, follow me on Letterboxd.
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Via Letterboxd: Since the death of his wife twelve years ago, Victor Fielding has raised their daughter Angela on his own. But when Angela and her friend Katherine disappear into the woods, only to return three days later with no memory of what happened to them, it unleashes a chain of events that will force Victor to confront the nadir of evil and, in his terror and desperation, seek out the only person alive who has witnessed anything like it before - Chris MacNeil.
Given I’m writing this review after days of both critics and audiences savaging The Exorcist: Believer, I guess I should warn readers this will be an outlier. Its also one of those cases where you wonder if expectations being set so low, set up the film to easily overcome your trepidation when it starts playing.
Not that low marks for an ‘Exorcist’ sequel are anything surprising. The original is a damn-near masterpiece, that many agree with me on. However the the second part a full blown disaster, the third a divisive entry with some passionate defenders, and the two attempts at a prequel are both mediocre at best entries. So hearing what is to be the first in a trilogy of legacy sequels from the team that gave us the just as divisive trilogy of Halloween legacy sequels didn’t seem far-fetched to me. But I must admit I enjoyed this film overall.
I do see some of the problems many have griped about. The film does a lot of interesting set up only for it to not end up really aspiring to be anything more than a pretty derivative exorcist copycat film. Its characters’ writing are hit and miss and the way it handles the legacy ones can come off damn-near insulting. The makeup on the possessed girls and the “scares” leave you wanting. There’s also a bit of a lull in the middle that will potentially lose some audiences. And the ending to this will leave some frustrated by decisions that were made, I included.
That said I also didn’t see the disaster that everybody else whether they be my fellow critics or general audiences saw. I’ve seen much worse horror films and certainly much worse exorcist films whether they be directly tied to the 1973 classic or cheap attempts by other studios to create their own.
For one this is the first sequel that actually feels like its trying to give audiences what they wanted to see after the original. Its about the power of faith in tragedy as a helpless parent desperately tries to save their daughter - and not strange tales of sharing dreams or hunting down serial killers or discovering artifacts like we got from the franchise’s other offerings. The character arc for Leslie Odom Jr’s Victor is super relatable to many out there and I found myself very much caring about how things would turn out for him and his daughter.
The main event that is the exorcism is quite well done though it still lacks the bite of the 1973 original. Its conclusion is one that will leave a bittersweet taste in many mouths, but it potentially sets up lore to build on and explore for the next two offerings.
Ultimately I can’t really explain away the fact this is just a very hated film upon release, but I will not be joining the mob against it. I didn’t love this, but I liked it well enough and frankly I liked it more than other horror darlings released this year. I give The Exorcist: The Believer a straight up B. What can I say? It made a rare believer out of me.