When the original Exorcist released in 1973 it was hailed as one of the scariest movies of all times. There were reports of people fainting while watching the film and getting sick in the audience. There was even the purported curse that afflicted the cast and crew during production of the film. Everything from accidents that occurred on set, to people dying who were connected to the film. Whether you believe in the curse, or the hype around the reaction of filmgoers who attended the film, it is undeniable that it has become a must-see horror classic that still tops many “scariest films of all times” lists.
The Exorcist: Believer starts off in Haiti, where Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom, Jr) an American photographer and his pregnant wife are caught in a massive earthquake which results in her death. Fast forward thirteen years and we see that Victor and his young daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) have made a home for themselves in Georgia.
Victor is extremely protective over his daughter and insists that she spends almost all of her time after school at home with him. One day, after Angela begs to study after school with her friend Katherine (Olivia O’Neill), he relents and states as long as she is home for dinner she would be allowed to. After a long day at his photo studio, Victor comes home to an empty house, with no sign of Angela anywhere. In a panic, he reaches out to Katherine’s parents and a frantic search for the two missing girls ensues.
Three days later, the young girls are found in a barn, not knowing how long they have been gone or how they ended up there. In the following days, the girls and their families will be beset by the evilest of forces, and it will be up to the family’s joining together, if they want to save the souls of their precious daughters.
The Exorcist: Believer, is not so much of a reboot, as it is a continuation of the original story that was launched so many years ago. Universal reportedly paid $400 million for the rights to bring this film to the big screen, hoping that nostalgia, the spooky season, and the strong acting of its cast would more than make up for the astonishing price. So, the question on everyone’s mind is, was it worth it?
Well, yes and no, which I’ll explain a bit more. The first roughly half of the film very much feels like a chilling mystery, particularly where the girls went and what happened while they disappeared. It didn’t’ focus much on the possession or on the inevitable exorcism, but more so on a feeling of dread when your children seemingly vanish into thin air. The tension is thick and is a strong opening of the film. It builds on the relationship that Victor has with his daughter and the tension between both sets of parents who barely know the other exist.
The second half of the film I feel is unfortunately the weakest part and is also what most people go into this film thinking about. With such a buildup, the rest of the possession and exorcism feels a bit rushed. There is a mysticism, that takes the film out of the realm of believable (even if the source material isn’t something that people believe in) and gives it way too much Hollywood flair. There are numerous films that do this type of source material much better and rely more on the psychological aspect instead of the special effects, in your face approach that Believer relies on.
That’s not to say the movie is all bad, the acting is superb, particularly between Leslie Odom, Jr and Lidya Jewett. Their chemistry is undeniable, and I still found myself rooting for this tag team to work things out. The inclusion of some surprise guests from the previous installment was a welcome addition as well. Along with plenty of jump scares throughout, the story pacing seemed to keep things moving through it’s roughly one hour and fifty-minute run time.
At the end of the day, The Exorcist: Believer is a fun, if not entirely original holiday horror flick. Will it make the same buzz as it’s predecessor? Most definitely not, but it doesn’t stray too far from the formula the made the original a classic to this day. While it certainly isn’t the scariest horror film to come out this year, for a movie based on a beloved franchise it certainly could have been worse. If you’re looking for a horror film to enjoy during this spooky season, there might be just enough here to make it worth the cost of admission.
3.5 out of 5 stars