THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER is a new horror movie that doubles as a requel. It’s both a reboot of the franchise and meant as a continuation of THE EXORCIST from 1973. For me, this is both a daring and worthy continuation. Read our full The Exorcist: Believer movie review here!
THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER is a new horror movie that works as a direct sequel to The Exorcist from 1973. It certainly doesn’t hurt to watch the original film again as a “warm-up” for this sequel, but it’s not strictly necessary.
There are a lot of familiar faces in this reboot story, which is the first movie in a new trilogy. Oh yes, and Ellen Burstyn is also back – and she’s still sharp and fit for demonic fighting despite the fact that 50 years have passed between the first movie and this one.
If we hadn’t just watched the 1973 movie again, I probably would have forgotten how much she fights for her daughter in that one.
Continue reading our The Exorcist: Believer movie review below. The movie was released in theaters on October 6, 2023, and is out on digital and demand on October 24, 2023.
A different kind of scary
This movie definitely has a different creepiness to it than the original, which is really violent. There is simply not a chance in hell (pun intended) that a movie today would have a possessed girl utter the violently vulgar phrases (and deeds) that Regan did in 1973. You need to be a comedy to do that today. Any horror movie that attempts this will be slapped with a rating so harsh that no one can watch it.
Rewatch the 1973 movie, and you’ll be reminded why audiences were shocked back when it came out. I knew what to expect and several scenes still made me gasp in shock.
In The Exorcist: Believer, there’s still a touch of horror, obviously. However, it is nowhere near as bloody and violent as in the 1973 movie. You might as well come to terms with that.
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In this story, we follow Victor Fielding (Oscar® nominee Leslie Odom Jr.) who lost his pregnant wife in an earthquake in Haiti 13 years earlier. Since then, he has been a single father to their daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewett).
One day, Angela and her friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum) disappear into a nearby forest and are gone for several days. When they return they have no memory of what happened to them. Pretty quickly, the girls change significantly, and Victor ends up – after some encouragement from the neighbor – seeking out someone who has experienced something similar.
He finds Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), who in the 1973 film went through a similar experience with her daughter, Regan.
A daring and worthy sequel
Overall, many critics have not been happy with this requel. To be fair, they rarely like sequels, reboots, or requels, so any movie attempting this is at a disadvantage from the start. However, much of the critique seems to be towards the fact that not only Christianity – especially the Catholic Church – is the one true savior of all things evil.
Well, that and the whole anti-woke agenda, which hits anything that doesn’t conform to tradition. Whatever that is?!
In this new movie, two girls become possessed (and speak with demonic voices, just like Regan in 1973), but not only Catholic priests can help the girls. Contrary to popular belief (due to pop culture mostly) the concept of demonic possession exists within many religions and denominations. Reason would have it that this means not only the Catholic Church can help.
This is quite fortunate as neither of the two possessed girls comes from families that are practicing Catholics. Don’t worry, there will be a Catholic priest in the movie as well. It’s just that Catholicism is no longer the focal point of getting saved, but rather faith is.
When facts are considered “woke”
The detail of demonic possession not being a Catholic concept comes to light via Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn). After the experiences with her daughter Regan, she spent her life investigating demonic possession across religions and cultures. Especially as she wasn’t present herself at her own daughter’s exorcism.
When asked why, she answers honestly that it probably has something to do with the patriarchy. Now, you obviously shouldn’t say that kind of thing, because then you are “woke” and your opinions no longer have value.
However, as anyone who has watched the 1973 original movie would know, Chris MacNeil was surrounded by chain-smoking male doctors who tried to understand Regan’s “suffering”. Then came the Catholic Church – which by God (pun intended) is a regular “Boys Club” – and took over. Across the entire storyline, she gets sidelined again and again by various men.
Only when she speaks up – clearly and loudly – using the authority that having money and being a famous actor brings, do they hear you. Watch the 1973 movie where the room full of doctors want to lock up Regan and tell me that Chris doesn’t fight for her daughter.
Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist: Believer
As I said earlier, Ellen Burstyn is back as Chris MacNeil. This amazing lady is over 90 years old, but she’s still amazing and reprises her role in a great way. Even to such an extent that she is exposed to significantly more violent experiences on her own body than in The Exorcist. Which was 50 years earlier.
And yes, I do know she donated her paycheck to charity. Why wouldn’t she? The woman is well past the age where she’s allowed to be retired for good. She comes back for this movie by her own choice.
Not for much screen time though. But Max von Sydow also had very limited screen time and certainly did not play the lead role in The Exorcist. The same goes for Ellen Burstyn here. She is only on screen about halfway through. The girls have to get possessed before it’s relevant to reach out to her. Exactly like with Max von Sydow’s priest in 1973.
A large and intriguing cast
The main role is played by Leslie Odom, who, as a single father to his daughter, Angela, has exactly the role that Ellen Burstyn had in 1973. The two possessed girls are played by Lidya Jewett and Olivia O’Neill, who have to go through a lot. Once again it’s physically uncomfortable to watch what they go through.
However, the most blasphemous utterances and actions have been reduced greatly compared to the original movie.
Both young actors do well – although neither of them come close to Linda Blair as Regan. Then again, Regan was just a much more violent experience. Groundbreaking in so many ways!
As the parents of the second girl, Katherine, we see Jennifer Nettles and Norbert Leo Butz. Ann Dowd (Hereditary) is a religious neighbor who quickly sees that there are demonic forces at play. Be warned, she also has a very specific reason for believing this. Also, Raphael Sbarge (Dahmer) has a key role as the Pastor for one family.
Watch The Exorcist: Believer digitally!
David Gordon Green is behind this revival of The Exorcist franchise with The Exorcist: Believer as the opener. He’s the director and co-writer of this new story and the script. The story was created in collaboration with Scott Teems and Danny McBride, while the screenplay was written with Peter Sattler.
Obviously, many will have expectations that are not met by this requel. To me, it’s clearly a tribute to the original film. Made with a focus on this particular origin, but also brought forward to our current worldview.
If you have just re-watched the original film from 1973, as we did before the press screening, I think you can see it as we did; The film follows the entire structure and pace of the original. It’s not as violent, but it would probably also have resulted in an extremely hard age restriction.
WANT MORE DEMON STORIES?
Yes, The Exorcist is a classic and a masterpiece. However, no one should forget that young Linda Blair had to be constantly guarded by bodyguards. For months after the movie premiere. She was attacked by religious fanatics. Somehow they believed that she had done the work of the devil.
Interesting that nothing is supposedly due to the patriarchy. Yet this young girl was the one being targeted for a movie made by men.
Now an updated and contemporary movie is made, and people go on social media saying it’s “woke”. Yeah, it might not be as full of profanity, blood and puke as the original. However, David Gordon Green clearly still managed to hit a sore spot with this requel.
Just like with Halloween, the filmmaker has also planned for The Exorcist trilogy. Having already outearned SAW X with a week less in theaters, this seems like a smart choice. I wonder if the person who appears in the penultimate scene might play a role in the next film?!
And no, it’s not a spoiler, but it’s definitely a teaser. Also, there is no end-credit scene.
The Exorcist: Believer was released in theaters on October 6, 2023. It’s out on Digital and Demand from October 24, 2023.
In Theaters: October 6, 2023
On VOD: October 24, 2023
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: David Gordon Green, Peter Sattler
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Leslie Odom Jr., Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Raphael Sbarge, Lidya Jewett
Since the death of his pregnant wife in a Haitian earthquake 12 years ago, Victor Fielding has raised their daughter, Angela on his own.
But when Angela and her friend Katherine, disappear in the woods, only to return three days later with no memory of what happened to them, it unleashes a chain of events that will force Victor to confront the nadir of evil and, in his terror and desperation, seek out the only person alive who has witnessed anything like it before: Chris MacNeil.