When I heard there was a new Exorcist movie, I was excited. While scary movies are hard for me to watch, I also love them. I loved the original Exorcist. It was creepy and one of the scariest films of its time. The trailer for The Exorcist: Believer also made me excited given the diversity of the cast. After watching the film, I loved that it developed new ideas, has a diverse cast but hearkens back to the original story and the story builds suspense that doesn’t just rely on special effects. It is a fantastic twist on the original film.
“The Exorcist: Believer” is a supernatural horror film directed by David Gordon Green and written by Green and Peter Sattler. It is the sixth film in the franchise and serves as a direct sequel to the original 1973 film. In the film, father Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) gives permission for his daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewitt) to spend time after school with one of her friends, Katherine (Olivia Marcum). The two girls meet up in the woods outside their school but don’t return home. Victor contacts Katherine’s parents, Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) and Tony (Norbert Leo Butz) and they go to the police. Three days later both girls are found miles from where they were lost with no idea how much time has passed. It quickly becomes apparent that both girls are behaving strangely. Victor’s neighbor, Ann (Ann Dowd) , a former novitiate nun, gives him a book on possession. After he tracks down the author, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), he begins to accept that there is more going on. Along with Katherine’s parents and with the help of Ann, Chris, a spiritual healer Dr. Beehibe (Okwui Okpokwasili) and the church, he attempts to save their daughters.
One of the elements that I loved the best is the supernatural horror elements in the story. The story builds the elements slowly, demonstrating the supernatural aspects little by little, building suspense and making the audience question if they really will be able to save the girls. The film creates such a spooky and atmospheric tone that the idea of possession becomes believable. The pacing and tension are built to increase the suspense and the story excels in creating that effect without relying on the special effects. The special effects are never over the top. They add just the right touch to bring believability to the scenes. The effects are updated versions of the 1973 film but work so well due to the acting of Olivia Marcum and Lidya Jewitt.
The other aspect of the story that I truly loved was the diversity that was brought to the story. First, we get an African American family. Victor is set up as a skeptic which builds into the idea of belief and faith that is the theme of the film. But those themes are built more on universal ideas of faith and spirituality around the world, not just Catholic or Christian beliefs. When Chris MacNeil is introduced, she speaks of faiths across the world. The film also brings in Dr. Beehibe who talks about traditional slave spirituality. She brings in touches that are a blend of those traditional beliefs with Christian aspects. The idea of faith and belief as something wider and that blessings can come from all cultures is a beautiful twist on the original story. It also added a deeper meaning to the film.
The acting is phenomenal. Both Olivia Marcum and Lidya Jewitt shine in their performances. Each of them brings little nuances that add to the concept that they are possessed. Their portrayals don’t rely just on the special effects. Lidya Jewitt has a wonderful rapport with Leslie Odom Jr. who plays her father. Even though they have moments of conflict, the love between them is authentic. Leslie Odom Jr. is magnetic and powerful as Victor, building a portrayal that demonstrates his change from skepticism to belief. His emotionally charged scenes with Lidya Jewitt as well as Jennifer Nettles and Norbert Leo Butz who play Katherine’s parents are impactful and intense. Both Jennifer Nettles and Norbert Leo Butz are equally emotional in their performances, as parents desperate to help their daughter. Ann Dowd is intensely good as Ann, Victor’s neighbor who helps him. Her portrayal of a woman who believes is powerful. Ellen Burstyn is excellent as Chris MacNeil, as good as in the original film. I loved her moments on camera. I also truly loved the performance of Okwui Okpokwasili as Dr. Beehibe. Her portrayal was beautiful.
There is very little that I didn’t like in this new film in the franchise. But it does start slow and have moments where it does move slower. While that helps to build the story and the suspense, those supernatural aspects, it is important to note. It also doesn’t stray far from the ideas of the original. While I love the twist on the original, the actions during the film of the possessed girls is very reminiscent of the original film. Their behavior and what happens during the final scenes were easy to predict. That said, I love that the conclusion of the film did deal with the very real world consequences of their possessions and how the families each deal with the outcome.
If you loved the original Exorcist, you will love “The Exorcist: Believer”. It truly respects the original but adds new touches, developing ideas of a universal faith and belief. I love the way it builds suspense and supernatural notes without relying just on the special effects. It even had a few scares I wasn’t expecting. The performances of the entire cast are brilliant. Leslie Odom Jr, Ann Dowd and Lidya Jewitt shine as does Olivia Marcum. I also really loved that the character of Chris MacNeil from the original 1973 film is brought in as an expert for the families. This is a perfect film for the spooky season, with a fantastic twist on the original film.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 blessings.