THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER sees Director David Gordon Green again applies his modus operandi on a popular horror franchise: Pretend all the sequels don’t exist and start over. The movie shows the demon Pazuzu taking possession of two young teenage girls, 50 years after he was expelled from Regan MacNeil by Fathers Karras and Merrin in William Friedkin’s 1973 classic movie. Victor Fielding, the father of one girl, brings together a group of believers in
different forms of spirituality, including the mother from the first movie, to deliver the girls from the demon.
It's painfully obvious that the minds behind THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER don’t understand spiritual warfare. Much of the authenticity of the original EXORCIST movie comes from the fact that Director William Friedkin and Screenwriter William Peter Blatty believed in using spiritual warfare against demons. It’s clear from THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER that the creatives behind it are not believers. The movie’s weak script and hopeless misapprehension of demonology make it an unironic, unintentional parody. THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER also has an unsatisfying ending, three “f” words, extreme violence, and a lewd hand gesture
(FRFR, O, CC, Ab, LL, VVV, S, N, A, M)
Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong universalist, spiritualist worldview rejects the sovereignty of Almighty God, ultimately shows God’s power to be insufficient to vanquish demonic evil and eventually suggests that people working together can drive out evil instead of people relying on God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and there are references to pagan, occult efforts to stop demons, mitigated somewhat by strong, overt Christian sentiments against the demon that’s possessed two teenage girls (even a paganistic herbalist who has drawn a circle around two chairs on which the two possessed girls are sitting starts saying some Christian sentiments against the demon), and one father’s humanist skepticism of Christianity is at least partially cured, and demon-possessed girl knocks over the communion elements in church and shouts “The body and the blood!” repeatedly to disrupt the service and demon mocks the people who often use Christian means while trying to cast him out
Nine obscenities (including three “f” words), one OMG profanity, and two scenes depicting vomiting, one extremely graphically
Three scenes of very strong scary violence includes possessed teenage girl stabs a woman’s face with a crucifix (rather bloody), images of spewing blood, and a demon breaks a character’s neck by twisting the character’s head, and strong scary violence includes an earthquake in Haiti, a possessed girl seeps blood from her genital area while under hospital bed covers (the blood spreads on the covers), possessed girls have violent convulsions in two or more scenes, and possessed girls writhe during exorcism attempts
A man mimes sex with a breakfast sausage in talking about two missing teenage girls, and demon uses the word “whore” as an insult
Brief upper male nudity during one medical exam, and hospital doctors perform official genital exams behind bed covers of two formerly missing teenage girls, who suddenly are found miles from where they disappeared
Two characters drink whiskey
Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
No smoking and/or drugs; and,
Some implied racial animosity, and the demon refers to one woman’s abortion when she was young to shame her for her past sin.
THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER sees Director David Gordon Green (HALLOWEEN ENDS) once again apply his modus operandi on a popular horror franchise: Pretend all the other sequels don’t exist and start over. The movie shows the demon Pazuzu taking possession of two young teenage girls, 50 years after he was expelled from Regan MacNeil by Fathers Karras and Merrin in William Friedkin’s 1973 classic. Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.), the father of one of the girls, brings together a group of believers in different forms of spirituality, including exorcism expert Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), to save the girls from their suffering.
As far as shameless cash-grabs that completely miss the point of the original picture go, THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER isn’t half-bad. Michael Simmonds’ cinematography, Timothy Alverson’s editing, and the score by Amman Abbasi and David Wingo all work wonders to create an environment that feels at once familiar to the original, as well as updated for a present-day audience. However, it becomes painfully obvious that the primary minds behind this story don’t understand spiritual warfare. Much of the authenticity and integrity of the original EXORCIST comes from the fact that Friedkin and screenwriter William Peter Blatty legitimately believed that the story they were telling could actually happen, that demons do interfere in the lives of human beings and try to corrupt them, and that the power of Almighty God, executed through His clergy, could bind them and cast them out.
It is clear from THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER that the creatives behind the movie are not, in fact, solid believers. Not only is the movie’s theology unsound, but the movie’s bloated,
overstretched third act goes out of its way to show the protagonists (including a hapless Catholic priest) utterly failing to expel Pazuzu from the girls. Other means seem more successful against the demon in the resolution of the movie’s plot problem, even though, in reality, it looks like the demon just leaves of his own free will at the end, after achieving a partial victory. Then, the movie turns around and tries to end with an optimistic monologue from the Christian nurse (played by Ann Dowd) helping the two families, who opines that demonic evil can be defeated if we all just work together. Ultimately, the heroes lose, hard, and yet the filmmakers don’t seem to understand that at all. Nor do they seem to comprehend the implications of Pazuzu the demon being stronger than the God the main characters ostensibly put their faith in.
THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER is a movie that wants to be as strong as its progenitor. Its technical talent and cast could certainly have made that happen. Yet, the weak ending and hopeless misapprehension of demonology make it an unironic, unintentional parody. While the original EXORCIST’s strong Christian message compensated for its unsanitized, often obscene depictions of demonic mischief, blasphemy and disturbing images, this unwanted sequel does not. The mixed pagan, universalist worldview in THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER ultimately is unsatisfying and unacceptable. The movie also has three “f” words, along with some other incidental foul language, extreme violence and a lewd hand gesture.
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