BFFs: Lidya Jewett and Olivia O’Neill in ‘The Exorcist: Believer’.
THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER *** (108 minutes) MA
It’s double trouble in The Exorcist: Believer, the latest horror movie about evicting Satan from the soul of a possessed person, a rich sub-genre that stretches all the way back to the original 1973 classic The Exorcist, which stands alongside Nosferatu (1922) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) as one of the most influential horror films of all time.
This jaunt actually plugs into the original film as The Devil finds his/her/its way into the ventricles of teenage girls Angela (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia O’Neill).
One day after school, the close friends do precisely what teenage girls in horror movies should never do, which is to wander off together into the woods, unsupervised.
The girls disappear, cause a panic among their respective parents, then turn up three days later 30 miles away thinking they’ve only been away for a few hours.
Errant behaviours suggest the girls aren’t quite right so in order to extract Satan from them none other than Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is brought in to confront the situation. She, of course, is the mother of Regan O’Neill (Linda Blair), the possessed kid from the original Exorcist.
All up, it’s a good serving of horror pulp times for the Halloween season (deep thanks to The Simpsons for bringing this tradition to Oz), very well-done with director David Gordon Green (Halloween; Halloween Kills/Ends) laying on loads of creepy atmosphere.
To be honest, the affair is not all that scary, though there are just enough jolts to hold your attention, with strong performances from Jewett and O’Neill, the latter being especially good at giving the Devil’s death stare.
As with most exorcism-themes horror films, the piece is replete with Catholic iconography and associated banter about God, making one wonder whether these movies qualify as faith-driven films.
Given pride of place is the line “the power of Christ compels you”, a classic quote from the original reinforcing the spiritual nature of the battle between good and evil.
There’s bit too much sermonizing and not enough Satanic vomit, though there’s a decent quotient of gross-out moments, the best involving a priest who develops spinal issues when he tries getting in Satan’s way.
That’s never a good career move for a Man of the Cloth.