The Faithful Join the Faithless When the Stakes Are High

17th Dallas International Film Festival

By Ben Bright


It’s the greatest time of year again, October. It’s a time a spooks, ghosts, great parties, and most of all, scary movies!!! My favorite month of the year!!!

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I love horror movies! Like LOVE horror movies! Any way you serve them, I’m all about it. And especially ghost stories, demon stories, and religious based horror. They never fail to scare the dickens out of me! The Exorcist: Believer enters the Halloween theater grouping earlier than a few other horror offerings this season, all with the Exorcist pedigree.

Coming off the heels of Halloween Ends, David Gordon Green [Joe, Halloween (2018)] and Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down, The Righteous Gemstones) have teamed up again with a scare fest being a sequel to William Friedkin’s (The French Connection, Killer Joe) and William Peter Blatty’s horror classic on the year of its 50th anniversary.

This serves as a direct sequel to 1973’s The Exorcist 50 years after the events of the original installment which has worked its way into the shortlist of horror essentials along with Halloween and Frankenstein.

I entered with a combination of excitement and reluctance thinking, “what am I getting myself into? Am I going to be disappointed? Will this be great or just another flick capitalizing on the brand name of a horror classic (let it be known though that I stand by this statement, The Exorcist 3 was a great movie. I don’t care what people say). Regardless I didn’t know what to expect.

But moving on.

The film follows two middle school girls, Katherine and Angela, and their families is suburban Georgia. One comes from a religious family (parents played by The Righteous Gemstones Jennifer Nettles and Boardwalk Empire’s Danny McCarthy) the other a single father (Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr) who is a steadfast atheist much like Chris MacNeil (plated by the always wonderful Oscar winning Ellen Burstyn) in the original film. The cast is also rounded out by the always great Anne Dowd (Hereditary, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Leftovers) who I am a big fan of as the busybody neighbor who ends up being an extremely relevant addition to the cast of characters.


They are best friends who go off into the woods one day after school and disappear and go missing for three days, they are found and taken to the hospital and asked how long they think that they have been missing and they both respond that they were gone for only a few hours.

After they return to their parents, they begin to exhibit uncharacteristic changes in behavior. First abnormal then erratic then blasphemous then violent.

Eventually Angela’s father seeks a reason for his daughter’s behavior in Chris MacNeil who has published a book on her experiences with her daughter Reagan 50 years prior.

What follows is a rather interesting exorcism with Angela’s atheist father and the faith driven family of Katherine working together. And if you have seen the original, you don’t have to guess where it goes from there at the climax.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It has themes of family and community dynamics, a search for solutions via different methods when the cards are down, and when family is involved, people from all different world and spiritual viewpoints can come together as one to help each other in an extreme and potentially deadly situation is at hand…and all with the audience caught in the middle.

But social and philosophical relevance aside, lets talk about the SCARES!!!!! Holy shit it’s got some! Not as many as I would have liked but it definitely has its fair share! I am a sucker for cheap jump scares and there are definitely a few. At one point in the flick, I jumped and ironically yelled, “OH GOD DANMIT!!! There were however a few scares that left me wanting that would have been more effective had been executed in a different fashion. Disturbing images that come with demonic possession flicks also have a significant presence. It also has a great handful of callback references to  Friedkin’s predecessor.

A major complaint though about the film is the underutilization of Burstyn which I did not care for.

Green’s direction and his story along with McBride did not fail to satisfy. I also was aware of Timothy Alverson editing skills when it came so certain menacing scenes were quite effective.

I thought that this is a great movie although I am sure others would beg to differ with me. As far as Halloween flicks go in the month of October it was awesome for spooks and spectacle.

It’s a film that most Exorcist fans would rank 3rd within the Exorcist franchise, but don’t take my word for it. If you are a horror fan, especially a fan of the demonic possession subgenre, this is worth your money. However, if you see it and don’t like it (you will), I will not refund your money.

Happy Halloween everyone!!!

15th Dallas International Film Festival