Dir. David Gordon Green (2023)
Two girls disappear into the woods and reappear three days later with a slight case of possession.
After the disappointment that was Halloween: Corey's Revenge or whatever that last one was, it should come as no surprise that the folks in charge of the major studios decided to give director David Gordon Green the reins to another classic horror franchise. This time, it's The Exorcist, a film many believe to be the scariest film ever made and one that still makes any good Catholic dump some holy water in their britches. Most of the horror fans I know were looking at this film with trepidation, pretty sure it wasn't going to be that great but feeling like they had to give it a watch regardless. Unfortunately, it didn't even live up to those lofty aspirations, becoming a largely forgettable film that feels like it has little to do with the original film and disrespects it in the few ways it traces back.
I won't go too much into the plot for this one, largely because the film didn't either. There are two little girls who wander off into the woods, and when they come back three days later, they have little to no memory of what has just occurred to them. They also seem like they might have come down with a little demon-itis, which is a surprise to everyone around them but really shouldn't be to you if you're watching this movie. Despite not very much happening throughout the vast majority of the film, there are a few creepy moments sprinkled here and there and, eventually, what I guess amounts to an exorcism these days in the final sequences in the film. More on that in a minute, but first I have to tell you some of the other reasons that I didn't enjoy this film.
I went to a dime museum last night and took in one of the earliest forms of American entertainment (more on this, as well, in the future). During the tour, they discussed how movies were really an industry killer for almost all other forms of early-American amusement, and how they are still the largest and most important form of entertainment for the vast majority of the populace. I say all that to say, had the dime museums been competing with The Exorcist: Believer, they'd probably still be in business, because this movie was all kinds of dull. Very little happens throughout almost the entire film, with most of the action taking place right near the end and even that being subpar at best. What little fan service exists for those who love the original tends to feel disrespectful, with an appearance by Ellen Burstyn feeling like the only way the writers could think to tarnish her legacy in the franchise. And, of course, there is the barely-there cameo from Linda Blair, serving more as a reminder that yes, Virginia, there was a better film with almost the same title.
The biggest problem (besides the rampant boredom) is that it's hardly an exorcism film. It's a possession movie, sure: there are, in fact, two little girls who have a demon inside of them. But despite the earlier film's dependence on Catholic dogma and the ancient rituals of possession, this one fizzles out by trying to deliver some kind of appeasement to those who aren't religious with an ending that makes none of the previous efforts in the film to rid the girls of the demon matter at all. I won't completely spoil it, but suffice to say that the demon himself (or herself, it's 2024 now) is the one pulling all the strings. It's never defeated, there's almost no attempt at an actual exorcism (and what there is doesn't matter at all to the outcome of the film), and in fact those trying to save the girls never even come close. It's not only not a happy ending, it's barely an ending at all, with some half-assed attempt to deliver an existential quandary about choice and selflessness that winds up feeling like an insult to those who chose to spend two-plus hours watching it.
I really try to go into these things with an open mind. I have made it no secret that I absolutely despises Halloween Ends, and I definitely wasn't the biggest fan of Kills either. Despite these earlier mishaps from DGG, I wanted to give this one a fair shot in the hopes that his efforts to make something that wasn't a Halloween movie in the Halloween franchise was just a misstep and not a reflection on his movie-making talents. Unfortunately, it was the latter, and Believer proves that he is just not the man to be put in charge of two tremendously popular horror movie franchises. We'll never get back the time and the energy that we all put into our hopes that Halloween would close out on a high note, but we can still rectify these mistakes by making sure that we don't end up with an entire trilogy of terrible The Exorcist movies as well. Sadly, it's probably already too late. The only thing that doesn't make this a tremendous tragedy is that the Exorcist movies weren't all that good to begin with.
Who this movie is for: Franchise fans, Exorcism movie lovers, Insomniacs
Bottom line: The Exorcist: Believer was just the latest example that David Gordon Green should be making something that isn't beloved sequels to classic horror franchises. It's cardinal sin is that it's boring as all hell, and even when it isn't, it's hardly one that's worth watching. Despite the appeal of carrying a big-name title and some fairly creepy trailers, you've already seen everything you need to know about DGG to make your decision on this one. If you're a huge fan of the franchise, or if you're just a general glutton for punishment, I guess give this one a shot. Otherwise, this was yet another swing-and-a-miss from one of the more hated directors in horror.