Film Review – The Exorcist : Believer (2023)

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Watch The Exorcist: Believer UK Trailer here!
(from left) Angela Fielding (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia Marcum) in The Exorcist: Believer, directed by David Gordon Green.

From the day it was announced that a new Exorcist film would hit our screens, only a true horror fan would need to eagerly see it like a heroin addict would need their next fix. It was a long wait, a long perseverance but the time came to finally get that fix. Was viewing ‘The Exorcist: Believer’ a good hit? To one’s subjective conjecture, it didn’t disappoint! It was terrifically terrifying. What a surprise! After viewing this worthy sequel, if one keeps the bedroom door slightly ajar for the light to shine through then it fulfilled its purpose which is to horrify you psychologically.

David Gordon Green deserves highest marks for effort in his direction. One would be in the minority to stipulate that his criticised ‘Halloween Ends’ was a disappointment, nonetheless Green’s talent is to take risks in his directorial decisions. To have the character of Corey Cunningham take the limelight over Michael Myers and be his sidekick was an excellent risk and it provides something far from cliché. Isn’t this what we want? A change of some sort? The risk in The Exorcist: Believer would be to have two possessed girls in synchronisation. It’s a great idea as the audience will be freaked out twice over by their on-screen creepy chemistry. The ending of the film which can’t be discussed will also be a huge risk to leave the audience dissatisfied. Aren’t these movies meant to be tragic? Yes! It will be a tragic ending almost like losing a ‘GoT’ character. The fact that you’ll care for these characters and the fact that it will affect you with bad closure is a risk worth taking. It shows the film succeeded in doing its job. To challenge, to frighten and to entertain.

The plot is an exceptional one. When two girls disappear into the woods and return three days later with no memory of what happened to them, the father of one girl seeks out Chris MacNeil, who’s been forever altered by what happened to her daughter fifty years ago. Leslie Odom Jr. plays Victor Fielding. He’s loving, protective and a father that becomes desperate. Playing a widower of a daughter that lost her mother in a save the wife or save the unborn daughter situation is a true challenge. How do you show the love and hold in resentment to a daughter? Odom Jr. does it well, as losing his wife has made him an atheist. It is the nurse Paula played by Ann Dowd that will make Victor find God and to believe that there is a Heaven and Hell. If Hell is winning, that’s what Exorcist’s are for. Yes, plural! Community is a key theme here as several soldiers of God from different religions will unite to save these two girls. That in a way shows political correctness that not only a Catholic Priest does all the work.

The two girls are what make the film special. Lidya Jewett who plays Angela, Odom Jr’s daughter has more screen time. We know her context whereas we don’t get much background/context with Katherine the other possessed child, played flawlessly by Olivia O’Neill. Despite Katherine being the lesser character, O’Neill has truly created a new classic line that will stay drilled in our heads forever.

The body and the blood…the body and the blood!” Freaky multiplied by ten is what would describe these girls. They’re not better than Linda Blair but they have truly made it their own. Their slow transcending into demonic possession is perfect. The tension that is built with unexpected jump scares and how they convey their possession and evil is spectacular. Perhaps having an equal back story for O’Neill would have been best.

Ultimately, nostalgia is what we rely on to be engrossed as Ellen Burstyn reprises her role as Chris MacNeil. Fifty years from the first film, at the age of ninety, she made the best of what her character was given. The fact that she has become an expert in exorcism in many cultures and religions gives her the right to advise Odom Jr. Her reasons for her daughter Regan not really being in her life is valid and well written. It is just that Burstyn is underused a tad and if the audience saw her do more like kick Pazuzu’s ass, regardless of her age would make the film perfect. The bottom line is there is no munificence in this review. It is candid to say that The Exorcist: Believer is a more than worthy sequel. It is without a doubt the best sequel out of the previous four films. Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is revamped to be more pleasing to the ear. However, to expect this film to be better than the 1973 original would be as hard as expecting Ellen Burstyn to do a sequel to ‘Requiem for a Dream.’ It’s practically impossible. David Gordon Green has done himself proud. The question is, can his next two Exorcist films be improved upon when the trilogy is completed? One is a believer that it can be. Linda Blair… I think this is where you step in…


Horror | USA, 2023 |15 | Cinema | 6th October 2023 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir. David Gordon Green | Leslie Odom Jr., Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum, Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Ellen Burstyn