Has nobody learned anything since 2018? If a film studio and director want to make a distant sequel to a beloved franchise, there can't be any half-assing it. But since David Gordon Green's 2018 Halloween reboot/sequel, studios thought it was a good idea to bring back iconic horror movies for modern audiences with extremely low budgets and inexperienced filmmakers. The same is said for The Exorcist: Believer, acting as a distant sequel to the terrifying original film by the late, great William Friedkin. Not only is the movie a steaming pile of awful and it would risk tarnishing the legacy of the original if it wasn't so forgettable. Skip It
David Gordon Green and his writing/producing partner Danny McBride have a wonderful and award-winning track record in the comedy realm. Their work together on HBO and in Pineapple Express proves this. Green's foray into darker territory with the Nicolas Cage vehicle Joe also proved that Green could explore a dark-natured drama. But when 2018 came along, Green came aboard Halloween where every movie fan squeeled with joy that he would not only be rebooting the franchise in a new trilogy but also bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle the original guy who played The Shape to bring the story full circle. With the exception of about 120 seconds of footage from all three movies, one of which had Michael Myers turning into John Wick for a split-second, the entire trilogy had no coherent storyline, or character arc, and was riddled with rough editing and some poor story decisions made by McBride and Green. Ultimately the trilogy let down its core audience and lives on among the numerous other bad Halloween sequels.
Kevin Smith was correct when he said, "In Hollywood, you fail upwards." This couldn't be more true for David Gordon Green if anyone tried. Green probably should take a break from Horror for a stretch because The Exorcist: Believer is the epitome of a badly made movie from someone who seems to hate horror films and good filmmaking. In the end, every audience member suffers. Not only do they suffer from the painful two hours it takes to get through this movie, but Green decides to bring back key original characters from the first film and utterly destroy the best character traits they had going. He did it on Halloween, and after this first Exorcist film, he's going to do it again in the next two installments. Someone, please stop this man! Perhaps Green isn't the only one to blame here though because Blumhouse's founder Jason Blum should take on some of this responsibility. To quote a wise Jedi, "You were the chosen one!" At one point Blumhouse was the new place in town to resurrect horror, but over the past few years, their entire film slate has slid by like a fart in a hurricane feeling lazy and uninspired. They were once a wonderful company but boy, how the mighty have fallen.
Just like the sloppy Halloween sequel/requels, and even the worse-off Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot/sequel, Green delivers those awful elements to the scariest and most loved horror movie of all time - The Exorcist. It acts as a reboot/distant sequel again in this formulaic movie that follows not one, but two young girls who get possessed and are forced to have an exorcism. There were several elements of the first film that came together perfectly. One of the best was getting to spend time with a young girl and her actress mother. There was ample time that was committed to seeing this mother/daughter team and how cute and loving they were together. The innocence and wonder of a child were slowly taken over by a brutal demon that manifested the worst acts, language, and physical appearance of this young beautiful child. But that drastic gut-punching impact hit so hard because the movie allowed for its first half to showcase the relationship and life of this endearing little family.
In Green's version, these two young girls are seen for less than two minutes being somewhat friendly at school before they head into the woods and become possessed. There is barely time to get their names, let alone see them as innocent children and their happy lives upended by an unseen demonic force. Like in the entire film, everything is rushed and never has a coherent and fluid bone in its body. Aside from the character Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.), who plays the father of one of the girls, not one character is fleshed out nor do they serve any purpose in the movie other than travel the story along to the end credits. Priests, neighbors, and other parents pop up here and there barely with names or characterization, and are rushed along in poorly edited sequences. Meanwhile, the film hasn't even showcased the two girls being possessed other than creepily staring off into the distance or yelling "body and blood" in church. Nothing makes sense here. It's as if a seven-year-old wrote the script without knowing how to tell a story that has consequences.
This movie is rated R, but nobody will be able to tell because it has virtually no bad language with the exception of a couple of curse words and almost no gore. It's a no-balls, deflated, half-assed horror movie that is irredeemable and unlikable. Another element from the original movie that made it memorable and most of all scary, was its extreme vulgarity and vicious violence molded from that young innocent child. It worked because it took the most beautiful creation and slowly destroyed it from the inside out and portrayed the worst of human beings - warts, split pea soup, and all. None of that is in this new sequel. Instead, Green wants to show a smoke monster similar to the TV show LOST and some sort of sewage goblin who looks to be responsible for the possession. That is not a joke. Whatever horror anyone might expect can completely curb it, because the only scares that come through in this film are the cheap and lazy kind, of which there are exactly two. And they are of the same thing, being one possessed child looking through a glass window and slamming her hand on the glass. That's it.
Bringing in the great Ellen Burstyn seemed like a fantastic idea, but when David Gordon Green gets ahold of something - his gut reaction is to strip it down and destroy it. That's what he does with the great character she played in the original film who comes to light here in a completely underused and embarrassing way. Burstyn herself does a great job in the best way she can given the material, but it's downright laughable and an offense to the character she played. It is such a travesty to see what unfolded on screen here, where again, it looks like the director hates horror and his audience. This is a prime example of bad filmmaking and that would tarnish the good name of the original Exorcist if this new film wasn't so completely and immediately forgettable.
The Exorcist: Believer is a major embarrassment for everyone involved. There is no horror here, no brutality or gore, nor is there any semblance of a character arc or coherent narrative to make the film scary. It's as if David Gordon Green just scotch-taped some ideas he once had and turned in a first draft and nobody questioned it. If anyone is expecting anything on par with the original classic that is celebrating its Golden Anniversary, skip this movie and pop in that new 4K UHD of the classic. Or watch Exorcist II: The Heretic - where it feels that movie at least tried. Do not give the studio money for this or there are going to be two more sequels that will likely be even worse than this. The upcoming Taylor Swift concert film forced this film to change its release date - save all the money for that instead. SKIP IT.