Warning: The Following article contains spoilers for The Exorcist: Believer.
The Exorcist franchise has returned to the big screen with the new sequel, The Exorcist: Believer. Filmmaker David Gordon Green, the director behind the recent Halloween trilogy, and producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions have crafted a new vision for The Exorcist that acts as a direct sequel to the seminal 1973 Academy Award-winning horror classic. The original film starred Ellen Burstyn in an Oscar-nominated performance as actor Chris MacNeil who witnesses her 12-year-old daughter, Regan (Linda Blair), undergo a terrifying transformation as she appears cursed by a demonic entity. But are the film’s two stars, Burstyn and Blair, in the new sequel? Well, here’s the rundown of what happens. Spoilers for Believer abound!
This probably is not too big of a spoiler for those who have seen the trailers and marketing materials for The Exorcist: Believer, but Ellen Burstyn does reprise her role as Chris MacNeil for the first time in 50 years for the sequel. In The Exorcist: Believer, two young girls, Angela (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia O’Neill), appear to undergo a terrifying transformation after they mysteriously disappear for three days without a trace. Later on, they are found with no memories of what happened. With no other place to turn, Angela’s father Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) seeks help as both girls seem to be suffering from demonic possession, which is similar to another case 50 years ago involving Regan MacNeil.
During Believer, Victor is shown a book called A Mother’s Explanation, written by Chris, about what happened to her daughter. It’s revealed that after Regan’s experience, Chris became a student and scholar regarding spiritual exorcisms, as well as an educator and so-called expert on the subject. With no place left to turn, Victor seeks out Chris for guidance. Unfortunately, Chris explains that sharing the story of Regan’s exorcism with the world angered and infuriated Regan, and the two are now estranged.
Chris has not had contact with Regan for decades and has no idea where she is. However, it is stated that Regan did heal, recover, and was able to thrive after her terrible ordeal. Chris does travel with Victor to Percy, Georgia to observe the condition of Angela and Katherine. When visiting the home of the possessed Katherine, the girl takes a metal crucifix and stabs Chris in her eyeballs in the film’s most brutal and emotionally disturbing moment. Chris survives the attack, advising Victor one last time that his community must come together and have faith in one another to save the girls.
While it is nice to see Ellen Burstyn onscreen reprising her role from the original film, The Exorcist: Believer does not craft a strong subplot or character arc to justify her role. It’s one thing for the parents of the possessed children to visit Chris for information and advice, but considering that Chris is not an experienced exorcist and never even witnessed how her daughter was cured of her possession, it’s not feasible for her to actually be involved in the action. Ultimately, Chris offers little help to the protagonists and the girls suffering from demonic possession, other than offering Victor an overblown, half-baked pep talk. The fate that befalls Chris in the film is horrendous and completely unnecessary to the plot. Believer suffers because it lacks a strong premise for how to reintroduce Chris MacNeil and effectively integrate her into a plot where two young girls have been possessed similarly to her daughter.
While Linda Blair is out of the picture for most of the film, she does have a brief, uncredited cameo toward the end. When Chris is still recovering in the hospital from her injuries, she receives a heartwarming visit from the now-adult Regan, who appears to be healthy and doing well. Blair reprises her iconic role on the big screen for the first time since 1977’s Exorcist II: The Heretic. . The two share an emotional, compassionate embrace before the film comes to an end. The Regan and Chris reunion is one of the few bright spots in The Exorcist: Believer, but it’s legacy film nostalgia bait that largely falls flat.
The Exorcist: Believer acts as a direct sequel to the 1973 original film, ignoring the previous entries and the spinoff television series. It’s also meant to be the start of a new Exorcist trilogy from Gordon Green and Blum, with the next installment, The Exorcist: Deceiver, planned for an April 2025 release. The final installment will be released later on, following Deceiver’s theatrical run. As first reported by The New York Times, NBCUniversal spent a staggering $400 million to acquire the rights to produce a new Exorcist film trilogy. Blair and Burstyn return to their famous roles for Believer, but it’s unknown if they will be back for the next film, Deceiver, which will be released in April 2025. Mileage may vary on how fans of the original view The Exorcist: Believer, which is currently playing in theaters.