For horror enthusiasts who had high hopes that David Gordon Green, known for his successful reboot of Halloween, would bring similar success to the Exorcist franchise, we regret to deliver some disappointing news. The Exorcist: Believer is facing harsh criticism from reviewers, with a dismal Rotten Tomatoes score of 20% at the time of this writing. Not only does this score fall below any of Green’s Halloween films, but it also ranks as the third-lowest rating in the entire Exorcist franchise. The only films with worse reviews are Exorcist II: The Heretic and Exorcist: The Beginning.
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This begs the question: What went wrong, especially considering Green’s promising start as a horror director with the 2018 Halloween legacy sequel? Do these unfavorable reviews signal a potential box office disaster for his planned trilogy before it even kicks off?
Box Office Trouble?
The current scenario appears to be quite different. Initial box office predictions indicate that The Exorcist: Believer is poised to have a successful opening weekend, with estimates ranging between $30 and $36 million. This figure comfortably positions the film to recoup its $30 million budget. When factoring in potential earnings from international markets, it becomes highly likely that the movie will at least break even, especially considering its relatively low production costs.
This outcome isn’t surprising, given the consistent track record of horror films at the box office. Horror is known for its ability to deliver reliable returns, often achieved with modest budgets. In this genre, star-studded casts aren’t a necessity, as audiences flock to horror movies for the communal thrill and scare rather than the star power. The Exorcist remains a significant benchmark in the genre, maintaining its ability to terrify audiences even after all these years. Consequently, its dedicated fan base is likely to turn out for any new installment in the franchise.
However, beyond a successful opening weekend, the challenge for The Exorcist: Believer lies in retaining its audience. This prospect appears much more uncertain, given the film’s poor critical reception and the substantial influence of word-of-mouth in the horror genre.
Let’s take a look at the peculiar case of The Devil Inside in 2012; it was widely panned by critics, yet it enjoyed what was then the third-best opening weekend for a January release, effortlessly recouping its $1 million budget. However, audience reception was vastly different. The film received an exceptionally rare “F” CinemaScore, reports circulated of viewers booing during the end credits, and by the third weekend, it had vanished from the box office top ten.
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Furthermore, there appears to be limited overall excitement for yet another Exorcist film. None of the previous sequels have garnered adoration from fans. In contrast, the second and third entries in the Halloween series have small cult followings. Even Rob Zombie’s divisive reboot films, while polarizing, still have their supporters. The enduring love for Michael Myers beyond the original Halloween ensured the franchise’s longevity. However, with The Exorcist, that level of certainty is far less assured.
Does David Gordon Green Need Indie Again?
Another significant factor of concern surrounding Believer is the involvement of director David Gordon Green, once celebrated as an indie darling. While his 2018 Halloween garnered praise from both fans and critics for its return to the franchise’s roots, his standing within the horror community took a hit shortly thereafter. Halloween Kills received noticeably less favorable reviews than its predecessor, and his trilogy’s conclusion, Halloween Ends, proved to be highly polarizing among fans, leaving many upset with its unexpected twist.
Critics reviewing The Exorcist: Believer consistently highlight Green’s direction as a major drawback. They point out that he fails to introduce fresh elements and relies excessively on fan service, jump scares, and nostalgia, rather than injecting his own distinctive vision into the franchise. Green’s Halloween trilogy, despite its flaws, at least attempted to chart a different course for the series. However, if early word of mouth is any indication, it seems that this may not be the case for Believer.
It’s regrettable because David Gordon Green is undoubtedly a talented filmmaker who can create remarkable work when given creative freedom, especially when operating outside the constraints of the studio system. His 2000 debut, George Washington, remains a hidden gem, characterized by visual poetry reminiscent of Terrence Malick at his finest and a profound empathy for characters living on society’s fringes. His second feature, All the Real Girls, is also sorely underrated, delicately delving into the dynamics of a burgeoning relationship between a young couple while staying true to the inevitable challenges they face.
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Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Green has had to return to his roots. After directing the uproarious Pineapple Express in 2008, Green’s unique voice became somewhat drowned out as he ventured into the realm of studio comedy direction. His subsequent films, Your Highness and The Sitter, were met with both critical and commercial disappointment. It was evident that Green recognized the need to get back to his filmmaking foundations, and he experienced a successful resurgence with movies like Prince Avalanche, Joe, and Stronger.
Perhaps, considering his recent foray into horror, it might be in Green’s best interest to revisit the strategy that worked so well for his career in the past. Horror may not be the ideal fit for him, just as studio comedies once proved to be.
Another Failed Reboot?
While The Exorcist: Believer appears set for a successful opening weekend, there’s a lingering sense that its momentum may not carry it far beyond that point. It’s unlikely to reach the same level of success as David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy, and the impending release of Taylor Swift’s concert film in the following weekend doesn’t help matters. Given the film’s unfavorable critical reception, the absence of widespread nostalgia for The Exorcist beyond the original movie, and David Gordon Green‘s divisive approach to the horror genre, it raises the question of whether some franchises are best left to rest in peace.