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Exorcist: Believer

“God played a trick on you.” Possessed Angela (Lidya Jewett)

Exorcist: Believer, directed by David Gordon Green, is a solid production from its screenplay to its makeup to its thematic heft, with a story that skirts reality just a bit. And for us former Catholics, it verifies what we felt was true: The Devil is real and occasionally manifests by possessing vulnerable humans.

Hence the need to exorcize Satan and have a horror flick at least half as persuasive as 1973’s The Exorcist. Green relies minimally on tropes like jump scares and clueless parents to make a case for two 13-year-old girls who become possessed by the monster during a walk in the woods, setting parents and police on a frenetic hunt only to find the girls in a barn strangely detached and potty-mouthed. Beats me how they could tell the difference from regular teens anyway.

Most striking is the relatively low-key delivery that allows the audience time to reflect on if they believe the possessions. Given how many bad guys now steer the world, believing in demonic possession should not be difficult.

It’s disappointing the filmmakers let a nurse perform the exorcism rather than a licensed religious exterminator. Such is the evolution from the iconic original where the Catholic Church was in charge (The Church wouldn’t allow priests for the current possession, so what are parents to do but face down the devil on their own?).

As well, when pregnant mom goes to Haiti and connects with a voodoo ritual over her unborn child, taking the Church out of the demonic equation seems disloyal to the original and plain stupid as a plot point. However, Exorcist: Believer is nothing if not measured and respectful of the faith necessary to combat evil.

While the script doesn’t deal with the religious and philosophical like the conflict between good and evil as the original did, it is successful horror cinema with enough of the formula intact and some surprising character development. In other words, it’s an exciting evening of quality suspense and frights.

The Exorcist: Believer

Director: David Gordon Green (Halloween Kills)

Screenplay: Green, Peter Sattler (Camp X-ray)

Cast: Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), Leslie Odom, Jr. (One Night in Miami)

Run Time: 2h 1m

Rating: R



John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.