The Exorcist: Believer’ on Peacock, a Mediocre ‘Sequel’ That Drafts on Past Glories

The Exorcist: Believer’ on Peacock, a Mediocre ‘Sequel’ That Drafts on Past Glories

The Exorcist: Believer is the sixth movie in the series. It can now be streamed on Peacock and VOD sites like Amazon Prime Video. Hopefully, it will be the first one we can watch since the 1973 original scared the hell out of us. Note: Some of us will support a few of those films because it’s popular these days to think about bad movies in new, strange ways. In this case, you shouldn’t try so hard to make junk look less like junk. As he did with the most recent Halloween movies, David Gordon Green is in charge of a new trilogy that are direct sequels to the first movie. In fact, Ellen Burstyn will reprise her part in Believer. It did pretty well at the box office, making a profit with $108 million worldwide, even though critics and audiences didn’t like it. The next movie, The Exorcist: Deceiver, coming out in 2025, might be able to tap into the subconscious fear of the first one. The third one doesn’t have a name yet, but I think it should be called The Exorcist: Golden Retriever. The Exorcist: What a Horrible Beaver! What about The Exorcist: Disco Fever? Tell me that doesn’t sound interesting. The only thing that would make it better than The Exorcist is if it was better than this one.

We are in PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, with Great Pazuzu’s ghost. It seems like the right world for Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) and his pregnant wife Sorenne (Tracey Graves) to live in, but then an earthquake happens! By the time she’s taken out of the rubble and to the doctor, Victor has to make a terrible choice: He has to save his wife or the baby. It’s not possible to save both. About twelve years later, we’re in PERCY, GEORGIA, where Victor lives with his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett), who is the result of his choice. There is a lot going on in their lives every day. They eat breakfast, get dressed, and drop their kids off at school. When she asks to hang out with a friend after school, he tells her, “Be home by dinner.” When she gets home, they eat chicken, watch some TV, and go to bed without any of Samael, Vassago, or one of their fellow countrymen taking over their bodies. It’s over!

No! Actually, Angela and Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) went through a banned forest and said a spell to try to bring Angela’s mother’s spirit back to them. As if that wasn’t enough of a test, they disappear for three days and are later found 30 miles away, shoeless and possessed by devils, which is an unpleasant truth that hasn’t been fully revealed yet. As you might think, Victor and Katherine’s parents, Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) and Tony (Norbert Leo Butz), were freaking out. They are still upset that their daughters can’t explain how they lost three days of time. Are they okay? They’re not, ma’am. This movie wouldn’t be coming out in October if they were.

The girls won’t let things go back to normal, no matter what’s going on around them. Angela pulls out her toenails, hits her dad, screams and swears, and has a severe conniption that should have sent her to the hospital. At the same time, Tony and Miranda take Katherine to church like they always do. She sits in a chair and looks pale, sweaty, and evil as hell, like she wants to rip Christ off the cross and fricassee him. Ann, Victor’s neighbor, who is a nurse and used to be almost a nun, says she thinks she knows what’s going on and gives him a book written by Chris MacNeil (Burstyn), who wrote the scary story of how her daughter did unnatural handsprings down the stairs and poop all over the house (one assumes the appendix has carpet stain removal tips). Hey, do you remember all that? How could we have forgotten? Chris agrees to help Victor, even though he isn’t sure about any of it because he’s a “god is dead and no one cares if there is a hell I’ll see you there” skeptic. But if that means becoming the thing in the movie’s title to save his daughter, then so be it.

Our Take: We won’t give anything away, but Burstyn is treated badly and hilariously in this script. An all-time great like her deserves better, but hey, at least her fate made us laugh while the rest of the movie made us shrug and feel like we’d seen it before. Even though Pazuzu gets two this time and Jewett and O’Neill are great as the pea soup spewers who are having seizures and love the naughtiest of naughty words, the end result is too much like the many copies of William Friedkin’s original. The Exorcist is 50 years old now, and getting Burstyn to come back (he supposedly would only do it if he was promised a big paycheck) isn’t enough to make this remake feel new.

That’s too bad, because you can tell they worked hard on it. Green is still a great director, even though he is mostly known for bringing old horror series back to life. He does a great job of building tension and atmosphere in this movie. But the tension that builds up during awkward conversations between characters of different faiths in the first act doesn’t carry over to the third act’s double-barrel exorcism scene, where a hoodoo healer and Christians from three different denominations yell their versions of “out-damn-spot-out” prayers into the faces of girls with stringy hair, yellow eyes, and sweaty nightgowns. For these exorcisms, they always had stringy hair, wore nightgowns, and groaned from their intestines and necks. Is there another way to show that someone is possessed by a demon? What about something quieter? Not the normal weird hovering and hissing out of the c-word, but a little psychological torture instead? Something a little more new and different? OK. Don’t call me for the next Exorcist until you have one.

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