The Exorcist: Believer First Reviews: Leslie Odom Jr. Shines in Underwhelming Sequel

Critics say the new film starts off strong before succumbing to shopworn genre tropes, ultimately failing to make effective use of Ellen Burstyn's return to the franchise and uphold the Exorcist legacy.

by | October 4, 2023 | Comments


Just as he did with the Halloween franchise, writer-director David Gordon Green has rebooted The Exorcist with a new retconning legacy sequel called The Exorcist: Believer, and unfortunately it’s no saving grace. The first reviews of the movie celebrate Leslie Odom Jr. as the lead, and there are some recommendations to be found, but otherwise, the 50-years-later follow-up is being called a pale ripoff that isn’t scary or worthy of Ellen Burstyn’s return to her role as Chris MacNeil.

Here’s what critics are saying about The Exorcist: Believer:

How does Believer compare to the original?

“Green and his co-writers do a clever job of evoking the original film’s autumnal feel and credible characters while establishing a new setting and new themes that are intriguing in their own right.” – Nicholas Barber,

The Exorcist: Believer is a more conventional horror tale, with constant dread and eerie thrills: It’s definitely haunting but lacks the first movie’s soulfulness.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

The Exorcist: Believer fails to capture even an ounce of the terror and emotional heft of the late William Friedkin’s original.” – Belen Edwards, Mashable

The Exorcist: Believer is a pale reproduction, grafting franchise iconography onto a slick, uninspired production, lacking a compelling reason for its existence or anything of value to say.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot

“While it tries admirably, The Exorcist: Believer is nowhere near as profoundly scary as William Friedkin’s genre-defining chiller.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

Lidya Jewett in The Exorcist: Believer (2023)

(Photo by Eli Joshua Ade/©Universal Pictures)

Is it scary?

“If there’s one thing an Exorcist movie, be it a sequel, prequel, remake or sequel, needs to be, it’s scary. David Gordon Green’s 50-years later requel, The Exorcist: Believer fails that most fundamental test.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot

“How horrifying can a movie really be when its entire purpose is to deliver, on cue, every trope that decades of demonic-possession movies have geared us to expect?” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Does it start out strong?

“The opening half hour, in which the trauma of missing children is dramatized with a vividness that bleeds, slowly, into the supernatural, exerts a certain pull.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The first half of The Exorcist: Believer effectively leans into the trauma of something horrible befalling your child, and although it moves fairly slowly, it made me want to give the story the benefit of the doubt even when it turned to cheap jump scares.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot

“Until about halfway through, I was a firm believer in The Exorcist: Believer.” – Nicholas Barber,

Leslie Odom Jr. and Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist: Believer (2023)

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)

Are there any standout performances?

“Leslie Odom Jr. undeniably shines as the movie’s standout, commanding every scene he graces with a quiet intensity. His pervasive presence throughout nearly every frame of the film lends it an emotional depth that arguably surpasses what the movie and its writing deserve.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot

“Odom effectively takes on the lead here and does nicely, as do the two girls who really go through the ringer with no small help from makeup designer Christopher Nelson. Both are excellent.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

“Jewett and O’Neill prove to be excellent successors to Linda Blair’s Regan from the original; both young actors nail the intense physicality and twisted facial expressions that stem from the girls’ possessions, and they are responsible for much of The Exorcist: Believer’s thrills.” – Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

How is Ellen Burstyn in her return to the franchise?

“Chris gets a smaller role in The Exorcist: Believer, but Burstyn certainly makes the most of it. She is a commanding presence onscreen… There’s little question that her appearance is one of the highlights of the movie.” – Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

The Exorcist: Believer almost immediately sidelines her, once again excluding her from some of the film’s most climactic moments. Burstyn barely gets a chance to do anything.” – Belen Edwards, Mashable

“I was grateful for her saturnine grace until one of the devil girls attacks her, in a Herschell Gordon Lewis moment that Green should have axed right out of the script. Why bring back Ellen Burstyn only to martyr her force?” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The need to bring back a legacy character even if you have no use for them in the narrative is a clear sign of lazy storytelling, indicative of horror movies having already quickly exhausted the novelty of such returns.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot

Olivia O'Neill in The Exorcist: Believer (2023)

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)

What is the film’s biggest problem?

“A film that was shaping up to be an intelligent and respectful homage to The Exorcist descends to the depths of a cheesy, straight-to-streaming rip-off.” – Nicholas Barber,

The Exorcist: Believer’s worst sin is the simple fact that it’s boring.” – Belen Edwards, Mashable

The Exorcist: Believer often feels like a promotional pamphlet for attending church or one of those ubiquitous Jesus billboards that dot the landscape along rural highways.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot

Is there any hope for the teased sequel?

“It’s no secret Green and powerhouse production company Blumhouse has a trilogy in mind for The Exorcist… As far as first steps, The Exorcist: Believer makes some solid ones.” – Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

“With a formidable Believer and two more Exorcist movies in the pipeline, though, at least this franchise still has a prayer.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Perhaps that film could possess even an ounce of The Exorcist’s power, but given the pure tedium of this attempt at a legacy sequel, I can safely say I’m a nonbeliever.” – Belen Edwards, Mashable

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.