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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 15, 2023



‘THE EXORCIST’ franchise started with the 1971 best seller of William Peter Blatty that sold 13 million copies.

It was made into a movie in 1973 directed by William Friedkin that was a blockbuster and got 10 Oscar nominations. 

It was the first horror film to be nominated for best picture but it lost to the heist film, “The Sting” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. 

It had several sequels: “The Exorcist II: The Heretic” in 1977, “The Exorcist III” in 1990 directed by Blatty himself based on his 1983 novel, “Legion”.

In 2004, a prequel was made, “Exorcist: The Beginning”. A second prequel was made the following year, “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist” which starred our own Billy Crawford as the possessed boy named Cheche.

And now, we have “The Exorcist: Believer”, meant to be the first of a trilogy. 

Its come on is that it features the original mother and daughter stars of the original movie, Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair as Chris and Regan MacNeil. Universal Pictures is said to have bought the rights for $400 million.

The movie starts in Haiti where Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr. of “Hamilton”) is on vacation with his pregnant wife. A massive earthquake happens and his wife was trapped in their hotel. 

Doctors told him he has to make a choice as to who to save: his wife or their baby.

We see Victor 13 years later raising their daughter alone, Angela (Lidya Jewett), who wants to contact her dead mother.

She and a friend, Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) go to the forest after school to do a seance that might help her to connect with her mom. What happens is that they don’t get to go home anymore and are declared missing.

Victor, together with Katherine’s parents, Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) and Tony (Norbert Leo Butz), with the help of the police, conduct a manhunt to find them. 

Three days later, they turn up inside a farmer’s barn, with no memory whatsoever of what happened to them. 

The two girls start behaving strangely, with Katherine having a severe breakdown while they are in church.

A neighbor, Ann (Ann Dowd), who is a nurse in the hospital where the girls are confined, says the girls are possessed and hands to Victor a book by Chris MacNeil, who had the same experience with her own daughter, Regan, ion 1973.

Victor then looks for her and she agrees to visit Angela and Katherine in the hospital. She says that she has been estranged from Regan and she has not seen her since she went into hiding after their experience. 

While trying to exorcise Katherine, the girl becomes violent and stabs Chris on the eyes with a crucifix, making her blind.

The movie becomes ridiculous at this point. Victor, Miranda, Tony and Ann team up with a Catholic priest, an African healer, a Baptist pastor and a Pentecostal preacher, to help exorcise the girls using method of different religious and cultures.

The demon communicates with them and says only one girl will be saved so they have to make a choice as to between Angela and Katherine will survive.

It reminded us of Meryl Streep in her first Oscar-winning role in “Sophie’s Choice”. Someone makes a choice but the wily demon is actually playing on them for a final twist. 

The movie’s director, David Gordon Green, has not at all come close to the chills provided by the original. 

This new movie is just not scary at all.  The first part about the girls going missing and the search for them manages to keep us interested.

But after this high point, the movie stumbles and never gets to recover again. 

It just stagnates instead of escalating the on screen proceedings.

The pacing becomes too slow and the storytelling simply bogs down with so many characters participating in the exorcism without really being of any help at all.

The ecumenical approach is quite acceptable, given today’s cultural landscape of interracial, interfaith landscape. 

But they failed to integrate it all into the narrative and it actually came out useless.

As the film ends, the nurse Ann delivers a long aria about endurance, faith and perseverance. 

You’d really like to ask what her homily is all about since the movie ends with the devil still there and they are obviously reserving it for the intended second sequel to be entitled “The Exorcist: Deceiver”. 

But since the movie is said to be performing less than expected at the box office, we don’t know if they would still push through with that.