Movie Review: ‘The Exorcist: Believer’ is an unnecessary sequel

Taylor Moore
Social Media Editor 

“The Exorcist: Believer” was released in theaters last Friday. As a fan of “The Exorcist” and horror movie buff, I had high hopes for the sequel, especially since it had been 50 years in the making. 

The original horror film focused on the possession of 12-year-old Regan McNeil, played by Linda Blair, and her mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, attempting to save her daughter from the demon Pazuzu. Her attempts led her to find Father Lankester Merrin, played by Max von Sydow, and Father Damien Karrass, played by Jason Miller, which all led up to the film’s infamous climax- the exorcism scene. 

This new addition to the Exorcist franchise would have erased the five sequels and prequels that followed after the original film, becoming a stand-alone sequel. 

Of course, I cannot talk about the latest release in the film series without talking about the disastrous sequels and prequels that followed. 

“The Exorcist II: The Heretic” was a poorly written sequel that focused on Regan’s life post-possession. It lacked everything the original was successful in. Blair might have given her return to the role her all, but her fellow co-stars did not meet the mark in their acting. Many of the scenes dragged on, especially with such a repetitive score that feels more like a lullaby than a horror film’s soundtrack. 

“The Exorcist III” completely derailed from the possession storyline and instead focused on a serial killer. The film did bring back Miller to play the character, Patient X, but having an original actor return was not enough to save what I consider to be one of the worst horror movie sequels of all time. 

The two prequels – “Exorcist: The Beginning” from 2004 and “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist” from 2005 – were not terrible movies. It was interesting to follow Father Merrin before he came to face off with the demon Pazuzu, but that does not necessarily mean that they were good. 

This seems to be a pattern with film series, but especially horror. The “Nightmare on Elm Street” film series has eight sequels and spin offs, but none can hold a candle to the masterpiece that was the original 1984 movie. This is also true for the “Halloween” franchise, which has 12 movies that follow the 1978 original. The first of the franchise is possibly the greatest slasher film of all time in my book, with a chilling score, an A-list cast and the scares necessary to make a horror movie a good one. Many movies in the horror genre turn into unnecessary sequels, when the original film should have been left alone. 

This was the same case with “The Exorcist: Believer.”

My main problem with the movie is that if you have seen the trailers, which have been plastered all over TikTok and Youtube in anticipation of its release, then you have seen the entire movie. The trailers showed just about every scary scene from the film, which meant when I saw them play out on the big screen, they had lost their scare factor entirely since I had seen them so often. 

“The Exorcist: Believer” has two girls possessed, rather than one, after getting lost in the woods and focuses on how two families approach their daughter’s possession. It seemed like an interesting aspect, since I imagined every family would have a different approach when it comes to the topic of possession. 

The film stars Olivia O’Neill and Lidya Jewett, playing Katherine and Angela, the two possessed daughters. 

Katherine’s family comes from a Catholic background while Angela’s single father claims to be an atheist. You would think that this would make for an interesting story. Instead, it became confusing to follow along with the two families. 

The film is overflowing with short jumpcut scenes, especially when the two daughters go missing in the woods. At first, I thought this was an artistic choice to show the frantic state the parents were in when looking for the girls. When the jump scenes continued through the entire first half of the movie, even after they were found, I was left with several questions and a nauseating headache. 

To make matters worse, it seemed the movie itself could not keep up with the two overlapping storylines. There were some aspects that the writers left for the audience to fill in the blanks, but this cannot happen with a horror film when the audience is not even halfway in. If this is done during a kill scene, then the fill in the blank trick can be useful to leave the audience on edge. This time, I was left questioning what I had missed. Was a scene accidentally cut from our showing? Then, I realized the film could not fit everything into a 111 minute timeframe and chose to leave important details out, with hope that the audience would not notice. But I did. 

What made the original so great was the intense buildup to the film’s climax. Every scene with the possessed Regan left viewers mortified at what they were watching in the best way possible. With this sequel, I felt like I had seen it all before. I know that there have been hundreds of possession movies since “The Exorcist,” but I had expected this sequel to live up to the original. It seemed the writers were relying on the nostalgia from the original to draw in their audience, which worked, but now what? They are now left with an extremely let down fanbase. 

I strongly believe that O’Neill and Jewett put everything they had into their roles, but the possessed child genre has been overplayed time and time again. “The Exorcist: Believer” failed to stand out amongst the genre. It is not impossible for a newer horror movie to stand out. Look at “Talk to Me,” which took a modern twist on the possession genre by making possession a fun way to trend on social media, only to turn deadly. That movie had all the makings of a great scary movie and established itself as a staple in the horror movie genre. Something “The Exorcist: Believer” failed to do. 

There have been good sequels to horror movies in the past. “Doctor Sleep” was an astounding sequel to “The Shining.” I had hoped that “The Exorcist: Believer” would fall into the great sequel category, but that was not the case for me. 

“The Exorcist: Believer” is another mediocre sequel. It is not great, but it is not terrible. It is a one time watch and great to get into the so-called spooky season spirit, but the anticipation was better than the actual film itself. 

Taylor Moore can be reached at taylor.moore@laverne.edu

Taylor Moore is a senior broadcast journalism major and Campus Times editor-in-chief for Spring 2024. In her sixth semester on Campus Times, she has served as the LV Life editor and social media editor twice, as well as a staff writer. She’s also worked on the University’s television news broadcast Foothill Community News as an anchor and reporter, and was a on-air personality for the University’s radio station 107.9 LeoFM.

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