23 April 2024
Entertainment Movies

‘The Exorcist: Believer’ Overview: Double the Possession, Half the Enjoyable

A half century in the past, the nice William Friedkin directed “The Exorcist,” blowing box-office information and audiences’ minds. Now David Gordon Inexperienced, not content material with mining the “Halloween” franchise for a trilogy of uneven follow-ups, has returned to go to the identical destiny on one of many highest-grossing movies of the Nineteen Seventies. Kicking off with “The Exorcist: Believer,” this newest recycling challenge will proceed with “The Exorcist: Deceiver,” deliberate for 2025. No phrase but on the third.

In case your foremost gripe with the unique was its preoccupation with a single sufferer and the dogma of only one spiritual denomination, then this overpopulated sequel has you lined. Clearly believing that extra is extra, Inexperienced and Peter Sattler’s screenplay (which ignores the intervening franchise entries) provides us double the possessed, greater than triple the faiths and a passel of enthusiastic exorcists. Hold them straight should you can.

The setup is swiftly environment friendly. 13 years after dropping his pregnant spouse in a Haitian earthquake, Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and his daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewett), are settled in Georgia. Apart from tolerating a grumpy neighbor (Ann Dowd) and her complaints about Victor’s trash can administration, the 2 appear blissful sufficient. Then Angela and her pal Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) head into the woods for some non secular hanky-panky, returning three days later with clean reminiscences and disturbing behaviors. Convey on the holy water!

Measured in opposition to the customarily mediocre requirements of as we speak’s glut of reboots and reimaginings, “Believer” is slickly skilled, its younger performers greater than as much as the duty. It’s additionally disappointingly, if unsurprisingly, cautious, gesturing solely wanly towards the unique’s potent weave of puberty, faith and corporeal abuse. Whereas nobody is asking for lazy reruns of the notorious masturbation scene or that corkscrewing noggin (although each are hinted at right here), there are many methods for a filmmaker to until such fertile thematic soil. As a substitute, Inexperienced contents himself with inconsequential tinkering, like switching the gender of the primary movie’s evil entity. Disgrace on you should you assumed all demons have been male.

Injecting a welcome sprint of this-is-how-it’s-done appearing, Dowd (whose character will reveal hidden non secular depths) and Ellen Burstyn (reprising her position as Chris MacNeil, the unique sufferer’s now-estranged mom), enable the movie to take an occasional breath. Burstyn’s inclusion, although, is narratively clumsy, a weak try to punch up familial ache that the brand new movie fatally dilutes. Confining her to a hospital mattress for a lot of the film — as Inexperienced did with Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween Kills” (2021) — solely underscores the movie’s paucity of recent concepts.

As for Inexperienced, his fondness for cinematic threesomes makes me nostalgic for his first three features, all made earlier than he was 30 and considered one of which, “All the Real Girls,” received a 2003 Sundance Particular Jury Prize for “emotional fact.” These dreamy, small-town reflections on love and survival, set among the many crumbling textile mills and abandoned railroad tracks of the agricultural South, revealed an unusual expertise for figuring out the drama of decline. That endurance and sensitivity has now been sacrificed to the cannibalism of recycled concepts; and whereas I don’t begrudge him his success, I do miss the filmmaker he was once.

The Exorcist: Believer
Rated R for blasphemous conduct and removable toenails. Operating time: 2 hours 1 minute. In theaters.