Time passes, the devil remains. And his greatest deception is still making us believe he doesn’t exist. So fifty years after the epochal feature film directed by William Friedkin which changed the history of cinema forever (and not just that of the horror genre), The Exorcist – The Believer returns to tell us about the perpetual challenge between good and evil born in the pages of William Blatty’s novel published in 1971. It takes infinite courage and a certain amount of recklessness to retrace those ancient stairs on whose steps Father Karras found his death. But Jason Blum and Blumhouse production are not afraid of Nothing or Nobody. As happened with the saga of Halloween, the American production company rewrites the myth. It is no coincidence that in the director’s cabin we find David Gordon Green, already author of the trilogy that revolutionized the brutal epic of the silent serial killer known as Michael Myers on the big screen. We know: the devil and God live in the details.
The Exorcist – The Believer, the plot of the movie
An apotropaic fight between rabid dogs introduces us to the atmosphere of The Exorcist – The Believer. We are in Port-au-Prince, the capital of the island of Haiti. In the Caribbean republic, voodoo plays at home and unfortunately so do earthquakes. And it is precisely an earthquake of unprecedented power that takes the life of Sorenne, the pregnant wife of Victor Fielding, a talented photographer. For the couple the exotic holiday turns into tragedy. Thirteen years later, we find the man in a small town in Georgia. The widower has not yet fully grieved. Plagued by guilt, Victor finds in his daughter Angela the only joy of his existence. But the little girl misses her mother. So together with her best friend Katherine, the girl decides to skip school to go into the woods with the hope, through a ritual, of communicating with her deceased parent. However, you must always be careful what you wish for, because the ceremony will awaken Hell and its followers.
The devil, probably
Changing the names of the demons does not change the result. If in Friedkin’s film, the satanasso responded to the name of Pazuzu, in The Exorcist – The Believeryou, the Mephistophelian antagonist is Lamashtu, a diabolical Mesopotamian creature, greedy for newborns. On the other hand, as the Gospel of Mark teaches, “my name is legion, because we are many”. But in harmony with the contemporary cinematic Zeitgeist, the film does not only draw on Catholicism and its sacred texts. From Muslim rites to Jewish dybbuk, from Zoroastrian texts to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the work shows us that exorcism is one of the most ancient human rituals and is present in every culture, in every country in history. And, unlike the unfortunate and convoluted sequel of 1977 which was titled The Exorcist – The Hereticor, the Blumhouse-branded film emphasizes faith and inclusiveness. Likewise with horror Talk To Me, this time too it is the desire to communicate with one’s dead mother that opens the doors of Hell. It is the deafening one illustrated by Ingmar Bergman in his famous trilogy that opens the way to evil. In a world in which the knowledge of pain languishes, the processing of mourning is absent and death is removed, it is difficult to believe in “He who is”. Easier to be tempted by “Who you want me to be”.
Seeing is believing
It turns out to be very appreciable, at least as much as the drops of Angostura in a Manhattan cocktail, which in The Exorcist – The Believer, jumpscares are not ad libitum. Indeed, as in the film dated 1973, the horror creeps in slowly and inexorably like the most usual of snakes in the bosom. Make up and special effects reveal themselves sparingly and effectively and in the sequence. What benefits are the tension and suspense. In short, terror runs on the edge of waiting. And the (in)direct homages to the cult scenes of Friedkin’s film are not tacked on with spit. Ça va sans dire, the nequitous ferocity and the politically incorrect of the seventies do not live here. The blasphemous ejaculations uttered by Laura Betti (Pazuzu’s Italian voice) would be inconceivable today. Yet, the film offers us its own disturbing harshness. The end of innocence, the suffering of those who have no guilt, are always disturbing on the big screen, if filmed with honesty and without vacuous grandiosity. And the presence of Ellen Burstyn who at 90 years old takes up the role of the mother of the possessed and young Regan McNeil (Linda Blair) is enough to cloak the film with a distant and magical aura. Perhaps the proverb that the devil makes the pots, but not the lids, is still relevant. However, given the enormous expectations and the comparison with a milestone not only in horror cinema, The Exorcist – The Believer it works more than many unrealistic and childish horror films. Seeing is believing.