I don't want to seem too dramatic, but David Gordon Green has become a monster who must be stopped. I had worries about The Exorcist: Believer as soon as I saw the trailer (which basically sold the film as "if you thought it was scary to watch a young girl be possessed and endangered then wait until you see our film with TWO young girls being possessed and endangered). Those worries grew and grew as I watched what is now a new low point in a horror franchise that contains Exorcist II: The Heretic.
Here's as much of a plot summary as I can be bothered to give. Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.) is a widow, and a father to teenaged Angela (Lidya Jewett). Angela heads off into some woods with a friend, Katherine (Olivia O'Neill), and the two girls end up missing for three days. Once they're back home, Angela and Katherine start acting rather strangely. Victor is unable to explain the change in his daughter, as are Miranda and Tony (Katherine's parents, played by Jennifer Nettles and Norbert Leo Butz, respectively). It's not long until we have Ellen Burstyn being pushed onscreen, bringing her character of Chris MacNeil into a tawdry mess that doesn't deserve the sense of legitimacy that her involvement gives it.
I am not exaggerating when I say that there is almost nothing here that will impress horror fans. In fact, most of the script, in terms of both dialogue (don’t get me started on that line about the patriarchy) and plotting, is laughably bad, and the material isn’t helped by visuals that are ugly and underlit. One moment focuses on a battle between elements that made me feel as if someone had spliced in a cut scene from a Mortal Kombat game. The blame lies with Green, but also co-writer Peter Sattler.
Odom Jr. is the best thing here, and there’s also a solid supporting turn from Ann Dowd, but they are the only people worth mentioning. I don’t blame anyone else for their performances, especially the younger cast members who admirably twist and throw themselves around in the more physical moments, but I wish there had been a cast of characters worth rooting for. There isn’t. This is a brand name in search of a worthy film, and that search may continue for a long time yet.
Considering what he did with another iconic horror property, I am worried that Green has some plan to link things together and ret-con past glories into his new creation. That would not be good. The only way this film is effective is in showing everyone how Green completely misunderstands the original classic.
Almost aggressively dumb and unsubtle throughout, aside from an opening sequence that I admit gave me hope that I might be in for something decent, this is a film made by someone who was told all about The Exorcist, but didn’t actually watch the film. It’s a film that somehow feels both overlong and yet also rushing to get to the lengthy exorcism sequence we all know is coming in the third act. And as for the score, and the “cheeky” music cue interwoven throughout a couple of key scenes . . . sometimes you just have to end a review with something simple and crude to express your opinion, so I say “f**k off”. That goes for so many aspects of the film that the makers thought would be cute and/or clever. And it goes for David Green.
Excuse me, I am setting up a crowdfunding campaign to help me hire a young priest and an old priest to keep Green away from any more classic horror movies.
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