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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

‘The Exorcist: Believer’ spits in the face of original, leaving audiences disappointed at what could’ve been a great legacy sequel

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

This review contains spoilers.

It’s no secret that “The Exorcist” stands out as one of the most horrific films ever conceived. Decades after its initial release, David Gordon Green’s “The Exorcist: Believer” came out this October, a legacy sequel rebooting the franchise.

“The Exorcist: Believer” begins as two girls (Lidya Jewett and Olivia O’Neill) go missing in the woods only to turn up three days later, frightening both of their families. Upon their return, they start behaving strangely, leading the families to seek help in performing an exorcism.

Arguably, “The Exorcist: Believer” holds the title for the worst script for any horror movie in recent memory. It lacks any reason to exist. In watching the script unfold, audiences will see how much of a blatant cash grab this is, with no discernible story to tell.

“The Exorcist: Believer” attempts to tell a story of what faith means to individuals while also crafting a narrative about whether people choose religion or not. The dad of one of the missing girls, Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.), observes atheism, and the script constantly beats down on him, making a point to deny atheism as a valid belief system unlike the other religions presented in the story. The script can’t decide if it’s in favor of or against organized religion, flipping back and forth between moral arguments and lacking a throughline.

Another narrative comes when Victor’s wife, Sorenne (Tracey Graves), gets fatally wounded in an earthquake, leaving Victor to choose between saving his wife or unborn child. While fine to discuss heavier topics, the movie tackles the pro-choice and pro-life conversation in a way equivalent to a PragerU advertisement, verging on propaganda.

The absolute worst part of the script comes from the fact that it tries to be a legacy sequel. It brings back Ellen Burstyn from the original ’70s film for an ultimately useless cameo and side plot, which gets completely forgotten by the third act. A cheap tactic used to bring audiences in, this worsens in a post-credit scene that includes Linda Blair, who played Burstyn’s daughter in the original, for no reason other than to add one last kick of nostalgia to thank audiences for emptying their wallets.

The performances by the actors themselves work despite the rough script, especially the two young actresses playing the possessed victims. Given a better narrative, these actors would’ve excelled. The direction by David Gordon Green remains professional and precise like his other films, but the script holds both of these factors back from allowing the movie to be bearable.

Cinematography remains the only saving grace of this theater experience. Michael Simmonds does an excellent job with the visuals of “The Exorcist: Believer” and provides all the visual tension and scares audiences expect. There are even a few shots that audiences will find gorgeous, not a word used to describe any exorcism movie since the one that started it all.

With a hasty release, “The Exorcist: Believer” feels rushed, sloppy and spits in the face of William Friedkin’s masterpiece from the ‘70s, leaving audiences with the desire to exercise the movie itself. Audiences should stick to watching the original if they’re looking for their possession fill this Halloween.

1 failed exorcism out of 5

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About the Contributor
Ryan Ranc, Life & Arts Reporter