Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Exorcist: Believer – A Bold Yet Imperfect Sequel

The Exorcist
(from left) Angela Fielding (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) in The Exorcist: Believer, directed by David Gordon Green.

Where to Watch: In theaters

Release Date: October 6th

Rated: R

Run Time: 111 mins

Starring: Leslie Odom Jr., Ann Dowd, Lydia Jewett, Olivia O’Neill, and Okwui Okpokwasili

Synopsis: 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’s been forever altered by what happened to her daughter fifty years ago.

For fans eagerly awaiting the latest installment of the iconic Exorcist franchise, The Exorcist: Believer arrives with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. Promising to build upon the legacy of the classic horror film, this sequel had the potential to reignite the terror and dread that initially excited audiences around the world. However, as the film was coming to an end, it was clear to me that this sequel, though not without merits, ultimately fell short of my expectations.

The film’s initial promise was evident in its cast. Leslie Odom Jr.’s portrayal of a concerned father grappling with the supernatural is commendable. His performance anchors the narrative, providing a relatable and empathetic entry point into the story. Additionally, the two young actresses tasked with portraying the possessed girls deliver chilling performances (they were nasty-looking, y’all) bolstered by impressive makeup and costume work that pays homage to the original film.

Where The Exorcist: Believer struggles is in its script. It’s as if the film attempted to cram too much into its runtime, leaving little room for the narrative to breathe and develop organically. While Easter eggs are a treat for die-hard fans here, they often distract from the central plot, diluting the overall impact. Although there are a couple of cameos that warrant applause, they aren’t enough to salvage the movie from its narrative convolution.

(from left) Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Angela Fielding (Lidya Jewett, back to camera) in The Exorcist: Believer, directed by David Gordon Green.

The film’s third act, in particular, is where it loses its footing. What should have been a crescendo of terror and suspense develops into a muddled and chaotic series of events. The film’s pacing becomes erratic and the storytelling strays from the path it initially set, leaving viewers disoriented rather than terrified. This is where the decision to focus on two possessed girls, while intriguing, potentially detracts from the investment in their characters. Simplifying the narrative to center on one girl allows for a more tightly constructed and focused storyline. Plus, the film could’ve focused on the “Believer” aspect of the film, which was Odom Jr.’s character, Victor. 

The film’s potential to create a tense and horrifying experience is evident but sadly underutilized. The moments of genuine terror are overshadowed by a disjointed narrative that veers off course. What could have been a spine-tingling rollercoaster of fear becomes a meandering journey with little payoff. 

In the realm of horror cinema, expectations are naturally high for a sequel to The Exorcist. The original film is a masterpiece that has haunted the collective nightmares of audiences for generations. While The Exorcist: Believer attempts to honor and build upon this legacy, it struggles to find its own identity amidst the weight of its predecessor.

In The Exorcist: Believer, there are elements worth acknowledging and appreciating. The film’s tone is well-crafted, effectively setting a palpable atmosphere of dread and unease. Lighting enhances the eerie ambiance, casting shadows that add to the overall sense of foreboding. Additionally, the music composition deserves praise for its ability to heighten tension and contribute to the film’s unsettling mood. While the movie may have its narrative shortcomings, these technical aspects succeed in creating a chilling and immersive experience for those who dare to watch.

One character who genuinely piqued my interest was Dr. Beehive, portrayed by Okwui Okpokwasili. The ritualistic healer delivered a standout performance, particularly during the exorcism scenes. However, I found myself wishing her role had been more substantial, especially considering the intriguing way she was introduced in the film. 

(from left) Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) and Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.) in The Exorcist: Believer, directed by David Gordon Green.

In conclusion, The Exorcist: Believer is a film that aspires to be a successful heir to the 1973 classic but stumbled in its pursuit. It boasts commendable performances, impressive makeup, and a dedication to the visual elements that made the original a landmark in the genre. However, its narrative missteps and overreliance on fan service leaves it feeling disjointed and unsatisfying. But that’s just my opinion! Take a dive into the supernatural and see for yourself.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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