'The Exorcist: Believer' is the weakest horror film to have come out of Hollywood in decades
  • Release Date: 06/10/2023
  • Cast: Lidya Jewett, Olivia O’Neill, Leslie Odom Jr., Ellen Burstyn
  • Director: David Gordon Green

The IMDb synopsis of the film reads, “When two girls disappear into the woods and return three days later with no memory of what happened to them, the father of one girl seeks out Chris MacNeil, who has been forever altered by what happened to her daughter fifty years ago.” I entered this film with only this much knowledge, as I wanted to retain whatever surprises and thrills the film had to offer. As it was increasingly becoming clear through the barrage of negative reviews that pointed out the cinematic deficiencies, as well as its many thematic and socio-cultural problems, and pandering to all the expected modern agendas, I wanted as little of it spoiled as possible. I didn’t want to walk out of this film halfway through. I was somewhat hopeful that maybe I would like this film a tad more than others since I had such low expectations. Lo and behold, even with such low expectations, I was so bored and annoyed by this film that I believe it is easily the worst horror film to have come out of Hollywood in the last decade or so, perhaps even more. I made some corrections to improve the readability and clarity of your text. If you have any further questions or need additional assistance, please feel free to ask.

The story and screenplay of the film are so generic, confusing, and boring that by the time the proceedings limped to the interval point, I was already contemplating leaving the theatre. The story offers nothing unique or engaging. Every scare feels recycled. The course of action taken by the characters has been done better and in more thrilling ways in other films. Some moments intended to evoke fear and dread were met with laughter and hilarity in the theatre where I watched the film.

The movie boasts of being part of the same universe as ‘The Exorcist’ and attempts to weave characters and elements from the cult classic into this one. However, this connection feels forced, unnecessary, and, dare I say, stupid. The iconic character of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) from the original film is poorly handled here, both in terms of writing and her role in the film. To make matters worse, Ellen Burstyn’s performance, which seems to be driven solely by a paycheck, adds to the damage. She comes across as disinterested as if she’s mocking the script and her character through her performance. In a scene where she confronts the devil, she appears oddly calm and unperturbed. A girl facing a cockroach in India would likely exhibit more fear and dread. The motivations of her character, her expected actions, and what she actually does all contribute to making the film feel as pointless and annoying as the rest of its presentation.

The two key ingredients in a horror film are always the scares and thrills. There needs to be a foreboding atmosphere and a feeling of dread and unease throughout the narrative to set the stage for the evil to flourish. ‘The Exorcist: Believer’ has absolutely no scares. There is no mood or sense of misery associated with the story or the characters. They attempt to insert a few jump scares here and there, but anyone with experience in Hollywood horror films can spot these scares from a mile away. The buildup to these scares is also so generic and overused that there is neither novelty nor drama.

The film culminates, as is customary, with an exorcism scene that is envisioned, executed, and concludes in such a pathetic and hilarious manner that even the most die-hard fan of the genre will find it difficult to defend. I was perplexed by the fact that the film portrays people with practically no expertise and no right to perform an exorcism doing so with very little care for reason and realism. This not only drains the film of the last bit of credibility left but also makes the proceedings appear foolish.

Additionally, they attempt what can be called a nod to the multicultural, multidimensional approach that many Hollywood films promote these days. They include African rituals, a wannabe nun who has had an abortion, a Catholic father who has not been given the right to perform an exorcism, a non-believer, and a family of believers in the process. If you didn’t catch all of that from what was shown, the director makes it a point to spell it out through some of the most cringe-worthy and obvious dialogues, reminding you of the film’s inclusive nature and solution to the evil that anyways wins and take away the poor white girl who was not lucky enough to have been blessed by an African witch doctor before she was born. This proved to be a laughable element in a film that needed to take itself a lot more seriously.

I don’t even want to delve into the performances, as it’s not fair to blame actors for a lack of interest and commitment when they’re dealing with characters that are written so poorly. Yes, there have been instances where great performances have elevated poorly written characters to some extent, but that couldn’t have been the case here, as the characters and the story never provided any means for the actors to navigate around the problems.

The film itself is so boring, slow, and unremarkable that no amount of energy put into the characters could have salvaged it. Some of the supporting cast simply recite lines and seem eager to quickly move out of the spotlight. Others are given lines that are so nonsensical and funny that it’s hard to believe they’re being spoken by people in dire circumstances. In summary, the performances in the film are the least of its problems. The real issues lie in the writing and direction.

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The Exorcist: Believer‘ is a testament to everything wrong with horror films today. The film lacks originality, thrills, a sense of dread (which is crucial in horror films), a cohesive script, and, most importantly, a story that would strike fear in the audience’s heart. It forcefully tries to evoke memories of the cult classic it attempts to emulate, but in doing so, it worsens its own situation. The performances are weak, the returning cast from the original is inconsequential, and if that were not enough, there isn’t a single moment of genuine fear or thrills. If you don’t want to be tormented by a film that cannot answer the question of why it was made, then stay clear of this one.

Rating: 1/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

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