MOVIE REVIEW – We have not become believers of The Exorcist: Believer, which is not available on streaming channels but only in theaters. This latest installment picks up where the 1973 horror classic left off, pretending that two previous sequels, two prequels and a TV series that was canceled after 2 seasons (and it was all good) never existed. But this “direct” sequel to the 1973 horror classic clearly bears no relation to any of those installments, let alone the great classic first one.
While the first “The Exorcist” was a nerve-wracking experience 50 years ago, we fell asleep to this boring sequel. Despite its R rating, the movie is full of sloppy scares and scenes of lame horror, and it only managed to give us goosebumps at times because it at least managed to recreate the atmosphere of the great classic, directed by William Friedkin, who died in August, and based on the best-selling novel by William Peter Blatty (who won an Oscar for his screenplay). Most notably, the classic Exorcist musical theme is played at one point in the movie. It’s also something…
We had even Ellen Burstyn…
I think this and its pathetic imitation will be nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award at best, even though it stars the great Ellen Burstyn, although you’ll probably be happy to see her return as Chris MacNeil, the movie star mother who performed an exorcism on her 13-year-old daughter Regan (Linda Blair), which almost caused the death of both of them.
Burstyn, now 90, has wisely resisted invitations to reprise the role that made her famous and nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 1974. The prize? The offer of a generous scholarship program for young actors at Pace University was understandably appealing.
Still, there is no excuse other than cowardice for moving up the release of the sequel by a week, other than the fear of Taylor Swift having to compete with her concert film of her Eras tour. Demons may be hell for the little girls they possess, but no one can escape Swift!
Another franchise desecrated
Director and co-writer David Gordon Green, who once spat in the face of his once-exceptional indie film roots with the equally lame, recent Halloween trilogy, now desecrates the legacy of the Exorcist franchise. This shameless waste of money is depressing, especially since The Caller is a pathetic sequel in which good actors get caught in the production’s web. Such is the case with star Leslie Odom, Jr., who won a Tony Award as Aaron Burr in Hamilton and is at his best here as Victor Fielding, a widowed photographer desperate to find Chris because he has written a bestseller about his daughter’s demonic possession.
Victor needs Chris to help him deal with the recent terrible behavior of his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett), who hasn’t been the same since she and her best friend Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) went on a not-so-healthy “hike” in the Georgia woods.
The girls have been missing for three days, although they believe they were only gone for a few hours. Then they start acting like Linda Blair from the first “Exorcist” movie, doing their familiar floating, drooling mouth, vomit throwing stunts. When Katherine starts chanting “flesh and blood,” her Catholic mother (Jennifer Nettles) and father (Norbert Leo Butz) understandably freak out, though we should feel even more sorry for them since we’re already bored out of our minds by the terribly slow and boring build-up.
“Logic? What for?!”
In addition to the terrible pacing and the lame horror scenes, there are the idiotic logical lapses that really ruin the movie. “You know who I am,” Burstyn’s Chris says in English, using a female gender, when he meets one of the little girls, indicating that the girl’s body is possessed by a demon: Pazuzu was transformed from a man to a woman between movies. Why? And why is he now in the girl’s body? Don’t ask such questions…
But Burstyn is quickly upstaged in the script by Ann Dowd, the sinister Aunt Lydia from “A Handmaid’s Tale,” as Paula, Katherine’s neighbor, a former nun who brings in Father Maddox (E.J. Bonilla) to perform an exorcism. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that both are terribly messed up, both in terms of character and acting.
“Who you gonna call?! Ghostbusters!”
There’s also an exorcist (Okwui Okpokwasili) from Haiti, where Victor’s wife died in an earthquake, causing him to lose his faith. We meet people of different religions and beliefs to show that it takes a small team to defeat evil.
But as if the slow, tedious build-up and the torture of cheap horror scenes weren’t enough, the sea of pointless subplots takes away any momentum the usually competent actors have valiantly tried to build.
And they’re even planning a trilogy with this new Exorcist! To quote another classic: “Father of mercy, do not forsake me!”