Wednesday, November 22

Exorcist: Believer Review

Exorcist: Believer

Dir: David Gordon Green

Starring: Leslie Odom Jr., Ellen Burstyn, Ann Dowd, Lidya Jewett, and Olivia O'Neill

2h 1m

"The Exorcist" continues dominating "top 10" discussions for horror movie fans every spooky season. And it should be in every conversation; the 1973 classic is a stunning and terrifying experience that delivers on many cinematic levels. Every sequel of the original, along with any film dealing with demonic possession or exorcism, emulates the William Friedkin film with varying degrees of success. 

"Exorcist: Believer," helmed by David Gordon Green, attempts to reexamine the religious themes and recreate the startling scares of the original film. Unfortunately, it seldom comes close to conjuring a meaningful scare. It suffers from a muddled storyline that would feel like just another run-of-the-mill exorcism film if not for its title and some nostalgia with a returning character. Aside from a few unique horror designs and some committed performances for two young actresses, "Exorcist: Believer" is disappointing. 

The film begins in Haiti with a young married couple whose vacation is interrupted by a natural disaster, an event that forces Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.) to choose between saving his severely injured wife or their unborn child. Victor reluctantly chooses his child's life. 13 years later, Victor and Angela (Lidya Jewett) live in Georgia. Angela yearns to know more about her deceased mother while Victor is doing his best to be the sole parent of his maturing daughter. After school, Angela and her friend Katherine (Olivia O'Neill) go missing in the nearby woods after trying to summon Angela's mom. A frantic search ensues, and after three days, Angela and Katherine appear in a nearby barn with no recollection of what happened to them. But the two young girls have returned home with something unholy inside them, an entity that wants their souls. 

"Exorcist: Believer" begins with an intriguing setup, one that immediately situates the lead character, Victor, in a tormenting circumstance of life and death for the woman he loves; it's a decision that will define every action moving forward for the character. Victor, portrayed by Leslie Odom Jr. as a protective father and science-focused skeptic, anchors the wildly uneven story. While initially promising, the film abandons much of the emotionally driven father/daughter character development for unsatisfying nostalgic callbacks to the original movie, even bringing back the elegant Ellen Burstyn for an uninspired character arc. David Gordon Green, who co-wrote the script with Peter Sattler, seldom achieves new directions that separate his film from other exorcism films of recent memory. Without the nostalgia to continuously remind the viewer, there would be no need to connect it to the original classic. 

One of the critical issues with this film is the narrative, which never quite decides if it wants to showcase a battle of good versus evil or would instead pursue the intense and frightening horror show components. This tone imbalance and lack of character development turn the film into a clip show of storytelling elements that never come together meaningfully or scary. 

A few scenes offer chilling and unsettling moments, specifically the two young girls' deteriorating physical and emotional states. There is also some startling imagery, seen through strobing light effects, that reveals a monstrous entity that continuously haunts the thoughts of the two possessed girls. Unfortunately, much of "Exorcist: Believer" feels lost within its need to honor the past and excel beyond the many imitators. 

Monte's Rating

2.00 out of 5.00

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