The Exorcist: Believer review – A tough act to follow, that completely misses the mark.

By Bailey McLaughlin

The Exorcist: Believer is a direct sequel to the original The Exorcist movie from 1973. It used the original as a jumping-off point for a new story that is set in the same universe. David Gordon Green, known for movies such as the Halloween trilogy, directed and co-wrote The Exorcist: Believer as a way to reintroduce audiences to the Satanic thrills that this iconic franchise has to offer. 

The new film brought back stars from the original film, Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn, to continue their roles in a newer tale of demonic possession. Both The Exorcist: Believer and the original The Exorcist follow a similar storyline of a single parent frantically trying to save their possessed child.

In this film, it is two teenage girls that go missing after playing around in the woods attempting to contact the dead. They are missing for three days and when they are recovered, they have no recollection of how long they had been gone for. When they return home, it is clear to see that they are no longer the same girls that they were before they went missing, they have been possessed by an ancient demon.

In this new instalment of the Exorcist films, the stakes are raised with two girls becoming possessed as opposed to the original one girl. The simultaneous possession of Katherine and Angela causes the other characters to be faced with a conundrum in which they are forced to choose who gets to survive and who gets to be dragged down to Hell. The ending of The Exorcist sees Regan saved by Father Karras’ sacrifice but in the ending of The Exorcist: Believer there is only a happy ending for Angela’s dad and Katherine gets taken to Hell by the demon. 

The demon that does eventually take Katherine is not the same demon that originally possessed Regan MacNeil. Regan was possessed by Pazuzu, a demon character derived from Assyrian and Babylonian mythology where Pazuzu was considered the kind of the demons of wind, and the son of the god Hanbi. Angela and Katherine are possessed by a new demon named Lamashtu, a demon that was derived from Mesopotamian mythology. Whereas Pazuzu is a standard demon who would possess anyone in its reach, Lamashtu solely preys on mothers during childbirth and possesses their babies in order to permanently harm the parent-child relationship. This demon ties perfectly into the running theme of parenthood and the lengths a parent will go to protect their child that is explored in this franchise.

Whilst watching this film, the pacing feels off. The acceleration to climactic moments feels rushed and lack any slow creep of menace.  When the big exorcism scene arrives, it is initially set up with thought provoking ideas about belief and its different meanings but instead of fully developing this angle it regresses back to the usual Bible shouting and mess of black goo being expelled from the possessed body. Green throws in jump scares, digital effects, sentimental music, and a succession of inspirational speeches.

There is no denying the sheer power of the original.

It bought audiences iconic scenes such as Regan’s head twisting around, stabbing herself with a crucifix, the swearing like a docker, the vomiting fountains of green goo, the spider walk down the stairs. This sequel offers nothing to compare. We have a group of parents and various believers come together to perform an exorcism with a lack of real shock and horror that was provided in abundance in William Friedkin’s 1973 original.

VERDICT: 2.5 stars out of 5.

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