The Exorcist: Believer Review: The Return of an Iconic Franchise

When author William Peter Blatty first put pen to paper to write the 1971 bestselling masterpiece, The Exorcist, it’s unlikely the he would have known that what he was penning would be the start of such an iconic franchise; one that has stood the test of time and consequently become one of the genre’s most adored titles.

The Exorcist: Believer Review
THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER, from left: Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum, 2023. © Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Two years after the novel was released, The Exorcist was adapted for the screen and went on to win Blatty a well-deserved Academy Award for “Best Adapted Screenplay” and a nomination for “Best Picture”.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Exorcist‘s movie release, a fresh addition to the groundbreaking collection has been released. Does The Exorcist: Believer “levitate” the beauty of the franchise, or will it leave your head spinning and/or spewing pea soup? Read on to see what I made of the highly anticipated movie.

The Exorcist: Believer Tells a Familiar Tale

When Victor’s (Leslie Odom Jr.) daughter and friend go missing after wandering of alone into the woods one day after school, frenzy sweeps a Georgian town. After three long days, the girls eventually turn back up. However, despite his indescribable relief at his daughter’s return, Victor begins to notice something isn’t quite right about her.

As things start to take a sinister turn, Victor knows that this is way out of the bounds of the natural and seeks help of the one and only woman alive who has experience in such unholy forces; none other than Ragan’s mother from the original movie, Chris MacNeil (played by the original cast member, Ellen Burstyn).

The Exorcist: Believer Review

From here, The Exorcist: Believer plays out like one-million-and-one other exorcism movies: someone gets possessed, they do some ‘possessed’ things and invariably then ends with a collection of priests throwing water at the demon tied to a chair/bed/radiator pipe.

To be honest, this felt a little bit like opening a bike-shaped Christmas present as a kid, to find its just another pair of gramma’s home-knitted socks. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. I mean, the majority of these movies seem to follow the same cookie-cutter scripts as the one before it and it has been the same way since the fantastically original Exorcism of Emily Rose first graced the Possession-Horror genre.

The whole scenario of two girls going missing to turn up possessed felt a lot like the 2023 horror, There’s Something Wrong with the Children but, thankfully, The Exorcist: Believer takes its own turn from the loose storyline and instead follows the usual path.

The Exorcist: Believer Tries and Fails

It pains me to write such things about a movie from this franchise. The original trilogy has long since been up there as one of my all-time favorite franchises and I really enjoyed The Exorcist TV show from Fox. I guess I’ve just had my hopes up since I first saw this announced and can’t help feeling let down by the needless lack of originality.

Despite my increasingly obvious qualms about The Exorcist: Believer, I’m not saying that it’s all that bad. Despite the on-the-rails approach that has saddeningly found its way in, the movie isn’t without its saving graces.

The Exorcist: Believer Review

There are a few moments that take us back to the 1973 classic without over-referencing or being too obvious. It’s always great to see movies offering these metaphorical nods in the direction of the audience and here they worked to remind me of how much I actually enjoyed the Exorcist franchise, up until now.

With few too few real scares and one too many cliches, The Exorcist: Believer was a bit of a swing and a miss for me. Expect anything like the original and you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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