Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Repossessed: The Exorcist: Believer (2023) Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Notable Cast: Leslie Odom Jr, Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum, Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Okwui Okpokwasili, Raphael Sbarge, EJ Bonilla, Ellen Burstyn


Although David Gordon Green's Halloween trilogy certainly had its issues, those films were at least interesting to some degree. Big swings were being taken by the end, and whether you liked it or not, it deserves some respect. To that degree, while I didn't love the latter two entries, those films are worthy of the occasional rewatch, if only for those swings and choices being made. 


Which is why, to some degree, The Exorcist: Believer is such a wild misfire on so many levels. At its core, it deals with some interesting ideas about world religious practices, the pairing of girls who become possessed, and two families from different backgrounds forced to come together to face a mutual evil. 


Yet, no matter what, The Exorcist: Believer never capitalizes on any of it. Instead of dwelling on those topics, the film is far more concerned with playing things safe within the world of The Exorcist. The callbacks to the original feel trite, the scares are mundane in a world of more interesting Exorcist knockoffs, and the overall narrative feels bland. Compared to some of the other Exorcist films, particularly the wild swings of The Heretic and Exorcist III, Believer feels more like a drab love letter to the series rather than a new and exciting continuation. It's baffling. 


To make matters even more depressing, Leslie Odom Jr. seemingly gives this movie his all - which is just watching the man tirelessly struggle to uplift the patchwork script and poorly constructed dialogue. He's embedding a ton of pathos to his character in small moments, which is something positive since he's leading the charge of the cast here, and, unfortunately, the script and the direction seem intent on mishandling his character and the plot at every given turn to undercut his work. 


The rest of the cast is decent enough, albeit the two performances from the girls never quite reach the dichotomy of sadness between their innocent selves and the demonic monstrosities they are supposed to represent in the third act. Ellen Burstyn is relatively wasted in a glorified cameo that should have been an easy home run series of moments for the film, and the narrative never finds the balance in developing the second family to counterpoint Odom's single father, Victor. 


There are a couple of moments that felt like perhaps Believer would eventually find its place and pacing, particularly in some of its opening moments when the girls first go missing or the build-up to the other family's daughter walking between the pews in church, but even those feel like David Gordon Green and his team didn't want to spice up the movie with too much style in an attempt at recreating the dramatic subtleties of the original. Instead, it all feels like it's a forgettable admittance that its creative teams had no real take on continuing the series outside of "I wonder if I could make an Exorcist movie that wasn't weird." 


By the time the credits roll, knowing that this film is meant to set up an Exorcist trilogy over at Blumhouse for which they paid one bajillion dollars, it's disheartening to feel like Believer never believed in itself. The execution of its more exciting aspects never has the conviction or faith to go to that next level that this film desperately needed to set itself aside from the other 200 Exorcist knockoffs that find their way to streaming every year. 


If anything, The Exorcist: Believer ends up making The Pope's Exorcist from earlier in the year look like inspired and heartfelt studio horror. So, I guess it is supporting a new franchise that deserves a sequel in its own way.


Written By Matt Malpica Reifschneider

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