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THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER Review – A Thoroughly Fine Horror Film Elevated By Terrifying Performances

'The Exorcist: Believer' is a perfectly fine film, but probably not as scary as most would want or expect from the franchise.
The Exorcist: Believer

Having never ventured into any of the previous films of The Exorcist, I approached The Exorcist: Believer with fresh eyes, with no expectations tethered to its cinematic lineage. What unfolded before me was a compelling and, at times, jarring journey through the realms of spirituality, possession, and community.

A Tapestry of Cultural Interpretations of Evil

The Exorcist: Believer
(from lower left, clockwise) Angela Fielding (Lidya Jewett, back to camera), Katherine (Olivia O’Neill), Pastor Don Revans (Raphael Sbarge), Doctor Beehibe (Okwui Okpokwasili), Ann (Ann Dowd), Tony (Norbert Leo Butz), Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) and Stuart (Danny McCarthy) in The Exorcist: Believer, directed by David Gordon Green.

Central to the film’s potency is its narrative that interweaves demonic possession with an exploration of cultural and philosophical interpretations of evil. The decision to delve into various belief systems offers a rich tapestry of perspectives, making it more than just a standard horror flick. In an era where films often present evil in a singular, typically Western-centric way, The Exorcist: Believer stands apart. It astutely posits that the fear of the unknown and the malignant has permeated every culture, albeit manifested in diverse forms—from Catholic rites to Muslim exorcisms and from Zoroastrian texts to Jewish dybbuks.

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Production-wise, the film does commendable work. The cinematography is atmospheric, capturing the eerie essence that permeates the story. The choice of locations—from the quaint town of Savannah to the vibrant landscapes of the Dominican Republic—adds depth to the visuals. Moreover, the inclusion of historically inspired demonic figures, like the Mesopotamian Lamashtu, is an intriguing touch, further enriching the narrative fabric.

Stellar Performances Elevate the Narrative

The Exorcist: Believer
(from left) Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) in The Exorcist: Believer, directed by David Gordon Green.

However, it’s not the film’s philosophical undertones alone that captivate—it’s the cast that truly shines. Leslie Odom Jr. is magnetic as Victor Fielding, a grieving father weighed down by survivor’s guilt, trying to navigate a world that is steadily slipping into the abyss. His portrayal of a vulnerable yet resilient father, one who grapples with tragedies both past and present, is heart-wrenching. There’s an honesty to his performance that resonates deeply, making his character’s journey one of the film’s most poignant aspects.

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But what truly amplifies the film’s chilling aura are the young protagonists—Lidya Jewett and Olivia O’Neill. Their portrayal of innocence that descends into disturbing possession is both terrifying and tragically mesmerizing. Their performances are a testament to the breadth of their talent. The process of their possession, from mischievous naivety to a haunting transformation, is disturbingly convincing, sending chills down one’s spine. Their pivotal roles in the narrative are bolstered by their unwavering commitment to the craft.

A Few Missteps in an Otherwise Engaging Tale

While the film is brimming with noteworthy elements, it’s not without its flaws. The Exorcist: Believer leans heavily on sudden spikes in volume to create jump scares. These, more often than not, feel like cheap tactics. Instead of enhancing the horror, they detract from it. The overreliance on this oft-overused method is disappointing, especially given the film’s unique storyline and otherwise sophisticated approach to horror.

The Exorcist: Believer is a worthy watch. While it does have its pitfalls—mainly its reliance on predictable jump scares—it offers a fresh perspective on the age-old tale of possession and evil. But what truly elevates this film from the realm of the ordinary are the impassioned performances of its lead actors. For those searching for a horror film with depth and standout performances, this movie ticks many of the right boxes. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or a newcomer like me, The Exorcist: Believer is an engrossing experience that lingers long after the credits roll.

The Exorcist: Believer does well enough to make me a believer. I appreciate the perspective of such phenomena from multiple perspectives, and the overall unifying message of overcoming an evil presence, that sadly fails to compare to many of today’s evils. But solid filmmaking, and incredible performances, make this a fun watch, though not one I feel is urgent or necessary. Which is why I give the film a 6/10.

The Exorcist: Believer releases in theaters October 6, 2023.

About The Exorcist: Believer

The Exorcist: Believer

Release Date: October 6, 2023
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Screenplay By: Peter Sattler and David Gordon Green
Based on characters created by William Peter Blatty
Producers: Jason Blum, David Robinson, James G. Robinson
Executive Producers: Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, Stephanie Allain, Ryan Turek and Atilla Yücer
Genre: Horror
Cast: Leslie Odom, Jr., Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum and Ellen Burstyn

Synopsis
Exactly 50 years ago this fall, the most terrifying horror film in history landed on screens, shocking audiences around the world. Now, on Friday, October 6, a new chapter begins. From Blumhouse and director David Gordon Green, who shattered the status quo with their resurrection of the Halloween franchise, comes The Exorcist: Believer.  

Do you think The Exorcist: Believer will redefine the horror genre? Which character’s journey intrigues you the most? And are you ready to delve deep into the philosophical undertones of possession and human fragility? Before you immerse yourself in this haunting tale, let us know your thoughts on social media!

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Kevin Fenix

Kevin Fenix

Professional Nerd | Amateur Human | Creative/Content Director The best way to describe Kevin Fenix is the kid you never tell what the buttons do in video games so you have a chance to win. Being 6’ 4” and Asian, he never really fit in, so he got comfortable standing out. Not only is it easy to find him in crowds, he dabbles in the culinary arts, does a little stand up and improv, and can honestly say Spider-Man is the Jesus-like influence of his life. Kevin Fenix loves dogs, movies, television, comics, comedy, and to shoot people… with video.