Y’know doing one of these marathon reviews has a singular goal in mind, and it’s almost always to swell up hype for a major release, as was the case for The Exorcist.
Despite a less than enticing first trailer, it had an intriguing second one plus it promised the return of franchise star Ellen Burstyn, last seen in the series in the original back in 1973.
I really wanted this to be so much, especially after seeing what makes the other movies as beloved as they are with fans, especially the original and 3, but I was just thoroughly unimpressed with this.
The Exorcist: Believer – Review & Rating
It’s hard to explain why this movie doesn’t work without comparing it to the original film, and as much as I don’t like comparing say, The Force Awakens to A New Hope, it’s not hard to see where they ran out of fresh ideas and did weaker versions of things done before in this year’s attempt at the requel fad that worked so well for Halloween with director David Gordon Green.
For starters, it devolves into a bigger and clunkier version of the original film, what if two little girls, what if more scares, what if more screaming, what if more just in general? The problem with that is, in The Exorcist, it takes its sweet time to get things started so when you get to the disturbed imagery and lines it has an impact on both the audience and the characters.
There’s also the issue that a large chunk of that original movie is about finding faith, whether that be from a place of lost faith or just general aimlessness, whereas in this the main character Victor goes from a Reddit-tier sceptic to just blindly accepting everything thrown his way.
Beyond the aforementioned crisis of faith none of the characters, from Victor to Chris McNeil to either of the possessed girls Angela and Katherine to any of the motley crew of people that decide to help, none of them have any growth of any variety. They have backstories sure, but that’s not development, nobody actively changes as this story progresses, they’re the same characters they were when they went in as they leave it, and that’s an active problem.
Mind you a static character isn’t inherently the problem, some of my favorite movies have static characters, look at Ocean’s Eleven, Batman (1989), and Inglorious Bastards, the problem herein is that there are no interesting ideas supporting the uninteresting characters.
The film wants to say something about faith and about death, but it ends up saying nothing. It’s the faith equivalent of that one AMC Theaters ad with Nicole Kidman talking about how movies unite us, but it just comes off as shallow and cult-like, and yeah that’s a really good way to describe it.
They have one interesting idea, and that’s with Chris MacNeil who as a character is remarkably wasted appearing in all of two scenes, but the concept goes that in the last half a century since the original she’s studied the nature of exorcism and warding off evil and how it has roots in all cultures and faiths.
That paired with much like the rest of the movie, the ill-fitting intro of how Victor’s wife died in a Haitian earthquake and he was left to raise his daughter alone, I wondered if this was going to become more of a character study about Victor and his relation to Haitian history and how that ties to his wife, something akin to what this year’s Haunted Mansion did actually.
But no, it just becomes an out-of-nowhere inter-faith crossover uniting a priest, a pastor, and a shaman (they’re just missing the Rabbi and the Imam) all three doing an exorcism at the same time, because yeah, I’m sure that won’t all be hard to focus on as an audience member hearing three different speeches at once, and yes, sure enough it was.
It’s so frustrating as a movie because every good idea is met with two more awful ones. Let’s bring a beloved character back and tease future story opportunities with another one! Alright, but instead what if we actually have her do an exposition dump and then immediately get stabbed in the eyes, also let’s end with Regan back, so that thread went nowhere.
Let’s have an Exorcist movie that explores how something other than just Catholicism would handle demonic intrusion! Okay but what if instead we just made it a jumbled mess of a climax that again kills off its priest character and also has two other religious leaders and multiple parents and side characters shouting over it? And so on and so forth
These actors really are doing the best they can with this absolutely horrendous material, especially Leslie Odom Jr., I hope this isn’t too big of a mark against him growing and thriving in his career.
In general, the movie looks nice and sounds nice, which you can always expect that sheen of professionalism in a Blumhouse movie, but man this didn’t offer any scares or anything intelligent reminiscent of the best of the series.
I’m thoroughly disappointed, this is the rare case where that first awful trailer was completely right, it’s funny the only other example that comes to mind was another Universal horror property intended to jumpstart sequels and spinoffs, and that’s Tom Cruise’s spin at The Mummy, and no movie should ever be compared to that.
Rating: 3 out of 10