It’s been 50 years since William Friedkin unleashed hell on cinemagoers with his Oscar-nominated horror film The Exorcist. With stories of audience members vomiting on seeing a certain scene, its reputation made it the hot ticket of the day. Director David Gordon Green’s modern day set sequel (in a planned trilogy) falls drastically short of reaching the same kind of intensity as the original, perhaps leading viewers to be rolling around in the aisles laughing rather than fleeing from the cinema in horror. It is, to put it bluntly, an almighty mess, but at points it is so bad to be entertaining.
What does work in its favour is a strong opener where we are introduced to lead character Victor (an excellent Leslie Odom Jr who plays the only character who is properly shaded in) and his pregnant wife who get caught up in a tragic earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Fast forward to the present day and Victor is now a single dad to his teenaged daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett). When she goes missing for three days with her friend and staunch Catholic, Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) the pair return changed, begin to act out, be stinky pigs, self-harm and scare the shit out of their parents – so typical teenage behaviour. Ann Dowd turns up as a nurse, neighbour and quite fortuitously an ex-nun.
The screenplay carves out a story that focuses on teamwork and togetherness as a panacea to the demonic possession of the two teenage girls and it is cringe-worthy bordering on parody. As is the fan service and nods to The Exorcist legacy including the return of Ellen Burstyn who deserved a far better-written role. The actual exorcism scene is marred by a cluster of issues including bad effects, bad acting and dialogue so cheesy that it may make you projectile vomit.
The Exorcist: Believer will be released in cinemas on 6 October. Read our exclusive interview with director David Gordon Green here.