In a year where original horror has been making waves with films such as Talk to Me by the YouTube twins RackaRacka, The Exorcist: Believer sequel is a horror classic that truly disappoints. Believer’s opening shot of silence and darkness interrupted by loud barking foreshadows what’s to come. For the next two hours expect disappointing and dull sequences interspersed with cheap jump scares.
We spend much of the film following Vincent (Leslie Odom Jr.) as he attempts to get an exorcism for his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett), yet the film spends no real time with either her or her friend Katherine (Olivia O’Neill).
In the original 1973 film, the possessed Regan was terrifying and shocking, a threat to both herself and others. In Believer, both girls unfortunately come off as incredibly goofy, as they scream in church or suddenly appear in a bathroom. Instead of the dread we’re supposed to feel when they emerge on screen, the film turns it comical. This unfortunately then lets down the climax of the film, where we merely tolerate an exorcism happening in front of us.
Odom Jr. and Dowd, despite their best attempts, fail to salvage what is, a very dry script, filled with cheesy lines and drawn-out monologues. Two exceptional performers with little room to showcase their talents. Aside from the casting of these actors, my positives seem to end there. The rest of the performances were all either wooden or over the top.
Besides the script and plot, a large issue with the film was the way that it mixed its sound. As a way of getting jumps out of audiences, sharp and sudden foley sound effects would play unnecessarily, thereby desensitizing us to everything that follows. Every closing door or drawer is pushed to the max. At one point a car horn morphed into a man shouting for his father, leading to one of the most awfully mixed sounds heard in the film, coming off more annoying than horrifying. Shockingly for a horror, the film’s downfall lies in its lack of suspense, if we do jump, we instantly get over it. There are no lingering feelings of fear or dread that transpire after events occur.
Of course, the main selling point of the film is the return of Ellen Burstyn in the role of Chris MacNeil. The Exorcist: Believer marks her first appearance in the franchise since the first film, Burstyn’s role felt shoehorned in an attempt, I am sure, to bolster sales.
I’m unsure of the recent trend of rebooting 1970s classic horror films, last year we saw the comeback of the fictional Sally Hardesty in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jamie-Lee Curtis returned as Laurie Strode in Halloween Ends. Both films brought back these famous scream queens and forced them to face their demons again. Note that the director of the latter, David Gordon Green, also directed this rendition of The Exorcist, and is continuing this trend. But is it exactly necessary? I think not.
In the time Burstyn appears in the film she sleepwalks, delivers some very cheesy lines and monologues, and then pops in and out whenever Green decides the audience hasn’t had enough of her. Her role was painfully useless and served no purpose other than fan service, and even then, the character that we get resembles nothing of the original character. If she were removed from this film, nothing would change.
With all this said, the film opened to a decent box office take in. However, critics and fans alike are unimpressed by this new reboot. With word of mouth travelling around, can it remain consistent with its take in?
As The Exorcist: Believer is the first in a trilogy, I feel there are lessons to be learned for Green and others attempting to reboot these established horror films. Not only in the ability to craft a better horror but also in understanding the original source material.
The Exorcist: Believer is out in cinemas.