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the exorcist: believer

starring: leslie odom jr., ann dowd, jennifer nettles, and ellen burstyn

REVIEWER: nick tonkin

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.

The Exorcist: Believer is the new addition to the Exorcist body of work and is the next  collaboration following the recent Halloween revival trilogy of writer/director David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s production company Rough House Pictures and the prolific Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions.

 

Believer follows the lead in some respects of 2018’s Halloween by incorporating legacy characters, familiar imagery and music to help give a sense of connection to William Friedkin’s original The Exorcist from 1973, and to a large extent this choice works well as The Exorcist: Believer is atmospheric, creepy and even succeeds in delivering some well crafted scares.

 

Two girls have gone missing, and their parents are drawn together in desperate, but fruitless search. Three days later, the girls are discovered in a farmhouse outside of town, disorientated with no sense of how long they have been gone. It becomes increasingly apparent that something is deeply wrong as their injuries won’t heal and their behaviour deteriorates. In a frantic search for help, their parents look to perhaps the only person who may be able to help: Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn reprising her role from The Exorcist as the mother of Regan, the demonically possessed young girl).

 

The Exorcist: Believer builds atmosphere well through a combination of strong cinematography, practical effects, sound design and benefits from the terrific performance of Leslie Odom Jr. as the father of Angela, one of the lost girls. These elements are tied together really well by director David Gordon Green in a few moments for some effective scares. However, Believer’s tone can feel a little inconsistent through some jarring editing, where tension and atmosphere is unfortunately eroded.

 

It’s also great to see Ellen Burstyn reprise her role from 50 years ago, and she brings a gravitas to Believer. It is unfortunate however, that her role is treated more as that legacy character template, but unlike Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, Burstyn is given less to do, resulting in Chris feeling less than an integral element of the story.

 

Though Leslie Odom Jr. and Lidya Jewett are both excellent as Victor and Angela, with Believer allowing time for them to build a picture with depth of a loving father and daughter relationship, with this thread ultimately being the most successful element of the film. 

 

The Exorcist: Believer is an interesting idea for a revival of The Exorcist franchise and features some effective scares, a great performance from Leslie Odom Jr. and the return of Ellen Burstyn but it doesn’t entirely succeed as a successor to the inimitable 1973 original film.

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