The new installment of The Exorcist tries really hard to pay an ode to the original film, with subtle hints that true fans of the original will notice. It’s not a lousy attempt by any means; there’s a sentimental element in the film that drives it into the watchable category. “Believer,” as the name suggests, has one goal only: to “make believe.” The Exorcist: Believer starts off in Haiti, similar to how the original began in Iraq, where we’re introduced to photographer Victor and his beautiful pregnant wife, Sorenne. Sorenne finds herself smitten by the kids of Haiti, and she’s called by them to get a blessing for her unborn child. When she tells Victor about this, he is surprised to know that she believes in such things. Later in the day, when Victor is away on assignment, there’s a huge earthquake, and Victor is asked to make a choice between his wife and their unborn child.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
Thirteen years later, it’s Victor and Angela, his daughter, back in sunny America. They seem to be very close. Angela has been going through some of her mother’s belongings, and she finds a purple scarf that’s to her liking. On the way to school, Victor notices this, and he isn’t very happy about Angela taking his wife’s things because they are quite “special.” At the same time, Angela has been begging to go to her friend’s house, and Victor agrees on the condition that she’s back for dinner. Angela is overjoyed, and at school, she meets her friend Katherine, who, too, is extremely excited about something. Katherine and Angela have been brought up very differently from each other. While Katherine’s parents are religious and she has two siblings, Angela lives with her single dad, who doesn’t believe in God. Angela wants to make contact with her mother, maybe to know what she was like, and she asks Katherine to join her in this quest. After school, the two head out to the woods, where they find a kind of hole underground. They get in there and perform what they think is a seance. They use a necklace like a pendulum and light a candle, inviting Sorenne’s spirit.
Victor, Tony, and Miranda can’t find their girls for the next three days. They think the girls have been kidnapped by homeless people or have wandered off onto the wrong side of the woods. After three days, the girls are found in a random barn 30 miles away. They think they’ve been gone for only a few hours, but their personalities seem to be different, too. The police and the doctors think there has been some sort of traumatic incident-induced amnesia that is the reason behind the girl’s distraught behavior, but upon inspection, there doesn’t seem to be anything out of order. Their feet have been burned because they haven’t had shoes on for three days, and the parents are worried sick. After they’re taken back home, the girls start to act really strange. Hearing things, chipping off their own nails, wetting the bed—and ultimately, Angela has a seizure. At the hospital, she has to be sedated to be calmed down. She’s overly aggressive, cursing and saying things that would never otherwise come out of her mouth (yeah, it’s a familiar pattern). On the other hand, Katherine has a breakdown at church and completely wrecks the room with the wine and communion wafers. She can’t stop repeating the words “the body and the blood”. Everyone was happy to see her back, but suddenly, they were scared for their lives.
This is when Miranda begins to wonder if the girls have been possessed. Victor is a skeptic and basically tells her she needs rest before she spews out more nonsense. On the other hand, Ann, Victor’s neighbor, is a nurse, and when she’s caring for a highly sedated Angela, the girl wakes up and says some unbelievable things. Ann had wanted to be a nun, but because she had become pregnant and had aborted the child (yo, when did this become political?), she couldn’t become one. Ann mentions this story because, as a novitiate, she was supposed to pick a name for herself, and she had picked sister St. Mary. Never having used this name, she came immediately to Victor because Angela mentioned this name to Ann, telling her exactly what she had done back then. This is what proved to her that there was something demonic here. She refers Victor to Chris MacNeil (yes, Mother is back). As expected, Victor does not believe there needs to be any kind of divine intervention, but he reads the book Ann handed him, written by Chris, and he decides to meet her when he sees a familiar sight in an image in her book.
In a similar manner to Regan, the words “Help Me” have been carved out on Angela’s stomach. He drives to Chris to hopefully get some answers (cue OG score). Chris has now become an expert of sorts on exorcisms. She can’t conduct one herself, but she knows everything there is to know about them. She talks about the ritual as something that is performed in all religions and cultures. She’s immediately willing to help the girls because that’s what she does—help those suffering. You could say she’s like a paranormal investigator now, checking if there is a need for religious intervention. She sees Angela and gets a clear picture that this is a vicious creature from hell mooching off of this little girl. Angela is in the hospital because Victor thinks she needs to be checked in for mental health reasons. On the other hand, Katherine’s home looks entirely different. She’s roaming around freely, and all the parents can do is pray that things will be alright. Chris tries to take matters into her own hands, and it backfires terribly. She’s blinded with a cross by Katherine after the demon tries to convince her that Regan is, in fact, dead. Mother and daughter have been distant ever since Chris wrote the book.
Father Maddox is invited by Ann to conduct an exorcism, but the Catholic Church denies the request, considering how dangerous the whole situation is. What Victor understands is that people need to come together to fight evil, and so he gathers everyone who is willing to join forces with them. He invites a rootwork healer, Dr. Beehive, his neighbor Stuart, who introduced Victor to the doctor, Katherine’s parents, their pastor, and Ann, of course. Rootwork healing is a method that was brought by African slaves to America that uses roots and plants in ritualistic practice. At the last moment, Father Maddox tells them that it’s impossible for him to join them, but he hands over his bible to Ann, entrusting her with the strength to fight this demon. The girls are placed on two chairs facing opposite directions, their hearts monitored, and a healing circle around them is drawn by Dr. Beehive. She reminds everyone not to touch the girls while the ritual is taking place.
Who Survives The Exorcism?
While Ann reads the exorcism rite from the Bible, Dr. Beehive performs her own rituals on the side. Everyone joins in with their own prayer, knowing that only belief can save the girls. While some things work in a minuscule manner, Dr. Beehive is able to pour some vinegar on the girls, like holy water, and remove some of the impurities in them, but it’s not enough; it’s only a start. In true demonic form, the evil spirit tricks the families into having to choose one of the girls to survive. Victor and Miranda both refuse to choose. Angela tells her father that he should choose her now after all these years, even though she was unwanted. She reminds him of the choice he had to make 13 years ago when he chose his wife over his daughter. But, ultimately, the baby had to be ripped out of Sorenne’s stomach because her own injuries were too bad. The priest, Father Maddox, then shows up because he can’t bear to let these two girls’ lives be taken by the devil. He places his hands on the heads of the girls before his neck is broken, and his face turns completely backward (a quick nod to the 1973 original). Now, Victor is certain he can save both girls, but Tony chooses Katherine.
With the choice clearly made, it appears as if Tony’s choice has been accepted by the demon. Victor runs to bring Angela the scarf he had taken away from her, reminding her that he loves her and his mother does too. He calls out to her to come back to him. Victor may not have faith anymore, but he believes in his daughter, and he will protect her at all costs. He tells her that if she doesn’t survive, he dies, too. Victor tries to hold onto Angela’s face, but she head-butts him so hard that he flies across the room. Angela floats upwards completely still; now everyone really believes she’s gone, but at the last moment, she pours out a black liquid onto the ceiling, being released from evil and falling to the floor. Victor grabs his daughter, thinking she’s dead, as the monitor reads no heartbeat. Victor grabs his daughter and begins to cry. On the other hand, Katherine tries to search for her mother, asking where she is. The girl is still in hell, and as she tries to follow her mother’s voice, she’s chosen by the evil spirit and dragged back inside. Angela wakes up in Victor’s arms, as Katherine has to be resurrected. Is it another trick played by the devil, or is it just Victor’s love for his daughter?
Similar to Victor’s choice, it is Angela who survives and not Katherine, even though she was the one who was chosen. One could believe it is the protective ritual from Haiti that still works, or it’s Victor who really protected his child. Victor’s overprotective nature toward Angela suddenly appears to be much clearer. Katherine’s death means that the poor girl is stuck in hell, but will she come back? Would we be seeing more of her in the next film? It is possible. She could come back as a vengeful spirit, or worse, we might have to see her suffering in hell. This would be unique for a possession movie. During The Exorcist: Believer‘s ending, a feeling of dread lingers, not only because of Katherine’s death, but somehow it feels like something is still after Angela.
The Big Reveal
To everyone’s (not our’s) surprise, when Chris waits in the hospital to heal her eyes, she’s visited by someone. Thinking it’s Victor, she is shocked when she hears her daughter’s voice. Regan returns and holds her mother’s hands, giving her a hug. This implies that we might get to see more of this mother-daughter duo in the next installment of The Exorcist franchise. We already know that the next film is titled The Exorcist: Deceiver, and this could mean so many things. Even if Angela is possession-free right now, that lingering feeling we had could be another trick played by the demon. Ann (Miss Ann Dowd always being in these movies, though) closes The Exorcist: Believer with the idea that we must not give up; this means that there might be some kind of hope with Katherine left.