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'The Exorcist: Believer' & other horrors
David Gordon Green's messy 'Exorcist' "requel" spawns a superfluous, deeply unscary story about the intersectionality of faith.
THOUGH OTHERS BEFORE HAVE TRIED, William Friedkin’s 1976 cultural touchstone, The Exorcist, has remained largely untouched. No filmmaker of sound reason thinks to themself able to make something as indelible as the original without living strictly in its shadow. David Gordon Green — once crazy enough to reimagine a sequel to John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 slasher, Halloween — tosses his hat into that ring, his hands locked cockily akimbo.
Like his Haddonfield-set ‘requel,’ his new film, The Exorcist: Believer, continues the story of the original film, retconning the events of The Heretic, The Exorcist III, and the franchise’s subsequent prequels (The Beginning and Dominion).
The title, Believer, seems predicated on the intersectionality of faith. From Vodou priestesses to Protestants, the film gathers one faithful and all to excise the demon afflicting two young girls, Angela and Katherine. Which demon that is is never made clear, but a momentary encounter with Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn, a much-much needed force here) reveals it to be a familiar evil. Is it Pazuzu? Or is it an entirely new demon? The film does not care to determine.
And therein lies the issue. The story feels like nothing more than a succession of painfully opaque events. The film shifts its focus across the film’s stable of determined ‘believers’ — the scorned apostate, the good-doing neighbor, the mother seeking reparations with her estranged daughter — that there is no clear hero to the story, no definitive ‘exorcist’ in an Exorcist film.
Outside of oldfangled politics, Friedkin’s film knew to anchor its story solely on crises of faith. Sure, there are ancillary topics like parental neglect. Still, the original Exorcist centered itself around the titular man of the cloth ruminating on his daunting relationship with God, and more so with Christianity. Jeremy Slater’s 2016 series ventured to explore similar themes and expanded the original story with a more firmly anti-church point of view.
And that is what it is, really. What makes Believer such a waste is its lack of point of view. An event horror requel with such great onscreen and offscreen talent that sadly dwindles into nothing more than a superfluous mess.
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Watch it in theaters? Nope. ❌
ABOUT THE FILM
🧣 The Exorcist: Believer
dir. David Gordon Green | Horror, Thriller | 🇺🇸
Since the death of his wife 12 years ago, Victor Fielding has raised their daughter, Angela on his own. But when Angela and her friend Katherine disappear in the woods, only to return three days later with no memory of what happened to them, it unleashes a chain of events that will force Victor to confront the nadir of evil and, in his terror and desperation, seek out the only person alive who has witnessed anything like it before: Chris MacNeil.
Other horrors I've watched this week:
Here are the rest of my horror viewings this week. For real-time reviews and quick takeaways, follow my Letterboxd 🟠🔵🟢!
dir. Brian Duffield | Romance, Horror | 🇺🇸
Watched as part of my research for my No One Will Save You video (due out this month!). Brian Duffield’s directorial debut is an endearing romance and coming-of-age story about a group of high school students forced to confront harsh truths about one’s mortality. There is plenty of blood and guts — there are geysers of it here! — but there is just as much heart, too.
dir. Scott Derickson, et al | Horror, Anthology | 🇺🇸
The gripe people have with V/H/S films is their lack of coherence, each episode strewn haplessly like an untidy pile of Betamax stapes. That is not the case for V/H/S/85. Perhaps the franchise’s first entry to editorialize (with ample thought and care), this new collection hovers over a frightful consciousness that is distinctly ‘80s. No episode sticks out sorely, but Scott Derickson’s segment — a metaphysical whodunit slasher that employs found footage’s gorgeous tape crackles and CRT aberrations beyond mere texture — definitely stands out.
🦇 Castlevania: Nocturne
crt. Clive Bradley | Horror, Fantasy, Animation | 🇺🇸
Netflix’s second Castlevania anime (is it right to call this series that?) is a beguiling horror adventure that is not afraid to carve in ugly detail the real impish ne’er-do-wells. Spoiler alert: it’s not always the vampires! The stage is set for a second season and I, for one, cannot wait for it.
What to watch this week
A list of noteworthy horror releases coming to theaters, VOD, and streaming.
🙏 Kenneth Dagatan’s In My Mother’s Skin, probably my most anticipated horror film of the year, is set to premiere on Prime Video this Thursday, October 12th.
🏠 Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher drops on Netflix on the same date, Thursday, October 12th.
🔪 John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams will premiere on Peacock on Friday the 13th.
🩸 The third season of Chucky just premiered its first episode. I like it. I like, too, Gen V, a smaller-scale story set in the world of The Boys. The latest season of American Horror Story, though, I do not.
A handful of exciting trailers were released this week, including:
Field Notes From Hell is Deep Cuts’ weekly email digest. Dispatches go out every weekend, with handpicked horror news, capsule reviews, and outlook on upcoming titles you can watch.