Heavily touted as a direct legacy sequel to the original film, The Exorcist: Believer arrives in theaters this week, and critics are not feeling this latest addition to the franchise. While the original Exorcist directed by the legendary William Friedkin is one of the best in the genre, Believer reportedly fails to capture that feeling of demonic horror thanks to its double-possession plot and its own inert fear of making bold statements about faith and religion.
Like previous attempts to expand the Exorcist franchise beyond the first film, Believer just doesn’t possess the skill and mastery of the original, and instead is a mish-mash of horror tropes that are old hat by now.
You can see what the critics are saying below:
Owen Gleiberman, Variety:
A new “Exorcist” movie shouldn’t be a slavish imitation of the original “Exorcist,” but it should conjure a certain danger; that’s what “The Exorcist” was all about. “The Exorcist: Believer,” in its superficially competent and poshly mounted way, feels about as dangerous as a crucifix dipped in a bottle of designer water.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire:
An execrable film that’s redeemed by almost nothing besides Leslie Odom Jr.’s well-modulated lead performance and the ambient sense of unease that Green casts over the story’s first half, “Believer” is so creatively spineless and bereft of its own ideas that its entire concept of sacrilege is limited to imperiling its franchise’s legacy.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap:
David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” trilogy reveled in returning Jamie Lee Curtis front-and-center to the franchise, but he doesn’t quite do the same thing with Ellen Burstyn. Whether that’s an interesting narrative choice, a half-assed attempt to capitalize on the enduring legacy of the original “Exorcist,” or merely a disappointment may be up for some debate, but the “half-assed” argument is by far the most convincing.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:
The music by David Wingo and Amman Abbasi turns up the tension, even if there’s nothing here to rival the needling effectiveness of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” which makes a welcome return in key moments, albeit in a remix that nixes the bells. That watered-down version of an inspired horror theme is symptomatic of a movie that starts out full of promise but fumbles the material as the stakes get higher.
Tom Jorgensen, IGN:
The Exorcist: Believer is a simmering duel with the devil buoyed through a confused second act by an enthusiastic cast and a timely meditation on the importance of community during crisis. But Believer is also palpably reluctant to deviate from the formula of its legendary forerunner. Though its predestined, blockbuster exorcism sequence just manages to provide a satisfying conclusion to the story, the underdeveloped synchronized possession element creates more problems than it solves.
Benjamin Lee, The Guardian:
His major ace is the return of the original protagonist Ellen Burstyn, who had wisely steered clear of any sequels, but was lured back by a “whole bunch of money” and the promise of a scholarship program for acting students. It’s a sound rationale given both the $400m Universal paid for the trilogy and what Burstyn, as one of our finest elder actors, deserves. But it’s also indicative of the overall emptiness of the endeavour, from an Oscar-winning William Friedkin classic to a soulless cash grab originally intended for a dual platform release on Peacock. Taken as just that, it’s serviceable; a silly, gloopy Halloween shocker that offers just about enough goofy entertainment for an undemanding fright night crowd. But it might be close to impossible for those with deep reverence for the original, of which there are a great many, to take it as such.
Chase Hutchinson, Collider:
There is something almost comical about how The Exorcist: Believer takes the premise of the first movie and attempts to go bigger by making it two girls becoming possessed instead of one. Rather than being something fresh or different, it comes across as a largely empty escalation in search of more profound emotion. On top of that, it isn’t particularly scary, as nothing visually holds the same mesmerizing power as Friedkin’s work, and the whole thing seems increasingly scattered.
Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting:
What made The Exorcist so scary and enduring wasn’t its concepts of faith or lack thereof but its authentic characters grappling with relatable issues as they venture further into the dark abyss of evil. Believer doesn’t spend enough time with any of its characters and instead rushes through all the requisite beats of an Exorcist movie right until it fizzles. Its bold, cynical commentary and occasionally effective imagery get lost in the shuffle. Believer is handsomely shot, at least, but mostly, it’s just unscary and soulless.
The Exorcist: Believer opens in theaters on October 6.