‘The Exorcist: Believer’: A strangely wholesome addition to a famously cursed series

10/03/23 By Haley Clough and Mckenna Smith

Prepare to start your Halloween early because a half-century since “The Exorcist (1973)” hit theaters, the franchise continues to serve as a teeth-clenching horror classic.  

In “The Exorcist: Believer (2023),” Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.) is forced to grapple with the death of his pregnant wife. Left a widower, he is tasked with raising their 12-year-old daughter, Angela Fielding (Lidya Jewett), on his own.

When Angela and her friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum) fail to come home after school, a search team is dispatched to look for the missing girls. Three days later, the girls are found bloodied, shell-shocked, and disoriented. 

Angela and Katherine, seemingly in a hypnotic stupor, begin to behave erratically and violently. Their parents, still reeling from the shock of the past three days, desperately search for answers. After exhausting all realistic possibilities, Victor begins to give in to the idea of a supernatural presence afflicting the two young girls at the cost of their minds and bodies. 

Desperate to free the girls, Victor begrudgingly takes the advice of his devoutly religious neighbor, Paula (Ann Dowd), and enlists the help of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn). Fans of the original Exorcist know Chris as an actress turned “expert on exorcists” after her daughter, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), survives a harrowing possession. 

The film captures emotional performances, especially from breakout actresses Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum. The young actors deliver striking authenticity throughout the entire film, and the audience will find it difficult not to empathize with the tragedy inflicted upon the two. It is not a stretch to assume we will be seeing Jewett and Marcum again in the future.  

“The Exorcist: Believer” parallels its prequel with “ponderings about the nature of good and evil that still merit consideration today,” says George Thomas in his review of the original Exorcist film (Akron Beacon Journal). 

If you peer through the religious overtones, a subtext more digestible in the modern age is revealed. You need not be a devout practitioner of religion to retain the powerful message of the film. In a moving and indelible way, “The Exorcist: Believer” is a reminder to hold onto hope, and each other, in the midst of suffering. 

Speaking of holding onto each other, make sure to bring a friend when witnessing this chilling addition to “The Exorcist” film series. It was released in theaters on Friday, Oct. 6.