In addition to its utter lack of ambition and originality, “The Exorcist: Believer” is also aggravatingly edited. Friedkin’s film was a masterwork of savvy pacing and its use of silence to express mounting dread. Green cranks up the pace to a near-whimsical speed, cutting eagerly forward, happy to get to the climax as soon as possible. In so doing, however, there is no sense of danger, no mounting dread. If demonic possession is a known element in the lives of all the characters, then it’s merely a solvable problem rather than an aggressive unpacking of the bleak mysteries of faith.
Friedkin’s film was followed by the absurd and terrible “Exorcist II: The Heretic” in 1977, which involved psychic links via hypnosis machines. “Exorcist III” hit in 1991, and some fans feel matches the original. In 2004, Paul Shrader famously made a prequel to “The Exorcist” called “Dominion,” but the studio panicked and reshot the entire film — with most of the same cast and locations — with director Renny Harlin. Harlin’s “The Exorcist: The Beginning” hit theaters first, but it is, by far, the worse one. Schrader’s film at least had the decency to be thoughtful.
“Believer” is not the worst “Exorcist” film by any stretch, but it’s certainly the least intriguing. It’s a rote, choppy thriller that forgets to scare us. A few images are vaguely creepy, but nothing from this film will be recalled with any meaningful clarity once the year is out. Green has such a loose grasp on the material that he seems to panic and fall back on jump scares and roaring demon children. After 50 years, it might be time to put cinematic exorcisms out to pasture and let Tubi have them for itself.
/Film rating: 4.5 out of 10