Summary

  • The Exorcist: Believer is a direct sequel with key differences from the original, using it as a jumping-off point for a new story set in the same universe.
  • The new film raises the stakes with two possessed girls, introduces a different demon called Lamashtu, and explores the theme of parenthood.
  • Unlike the original, The Exorcist: Believer is a more conventional horror film that relies on possession movie clichés and includes more jump scares.

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The Exorcist: Believer is a direct sequel to the original The Exorcist movie that borrows a lot from the 1973 classic, but there are a handful of key differences between the films. In a bid to spearhead a new Exorcist trilogy the same way he spearheaded a new Halloween trilogy, David Gordon Green directed and co-wrote The Exorcist: Believer as a way of reintroducing moviegoers to the Satanic thrills of this iconic franchise. The Exorcist: Believer brought back the revered stars of the original movie, Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair, to reprise their roles in a new tale of demonic possession.

Although it follows a similar story of a single parent desperately trying to save their possessed daughter, The Exorcist: Believer is a very different movie than its predecessor. The Exorcist is a pillar of horror cinema, but The Exorcist: Believer just uses it as a jumping-off point to tell an all-new story set in this familiar universe. From the number of girls possessed by the demon to the identity of the demon itself to the relationship between Chris and Regan MacNeil, there are plenty of huge differences between The Exorcist and The Exorcist: Believer.

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7 The Exorcist: Believer Has Two Possessed Girls

Lidya Jewett and Olivia O'Neill in The Exorcist: Believer

Although there was just one possessed girl in the original Exorcist movie, The Exorcist: Believer raises the stakes with two possessed girls. The simultaneous possession of two girls, Angela and Katherine, changes the demonic lore of the story. The characters of The Exorcist: Believer are faced with a Sophie’s Choice conundrum in which they’re forced to choose one child to survive the possession and another to be dragged to Hell. At the end of The Exorcist, Regan is saved by Father Karras’ sacrifice, but the end of The Exorcist: Believer is only a happy ending for Angela’s dad; Katherine is taken to Hell.

6 The Exorcist & Exorcist: Believer Have Different Demons

A possessed Katherine screams in The Exorcist: Believer

The demon that possesses the girls in The Exorcist: Believer isn’t the same demon that possessed Regan MacNeil in the original Exorcist movie. Regan was possessed by the malevolent Pazuzu; Angela and Katherine are possessed by a new demon called Lamashtu. Lamashtu is arguably even more dangerous than Pazuzu. Whereas Pazuzu is a regular demon who possesses anyone it can get its devilish hands on, Lamashtu preys on mothers during childbirth and possesses their babies so that it can permanently harm parent-child relationships. This malicious M.O. ties into the franchise’s theme of parenthood and the lengths a parent will go to protect their child.

5 Chris MacNeil Is More Comfortable Publicizing Her Daughter’s Possession In The Exorcist: Believer

Chris MacNeil confronts the possessed girl in The Exorcist Believer

Chris MacNeil is a lot more comfortable publicizing her daughter’s possession in The Exorcist: Believer. All throughout the original Exorcist film, Chris is desperate to keep Regan’s possession under wraps so they’re not hounded by paparazzi and her daughter doesn’t become famous for the most horrible chapter of her life. She also wants to keep it a secret because Regan has no memory of the possession and Chris doesn’t want her to find out what happened. But in The Exorcist: Believer, Chris has told that story to the world in a bestselling tell-all memoir that made her the face of exorcism rituals.

4 The Exorcist: Believer Is About A Widowed Father, Not A Single Mother

Chris with Victor in Exorcist Believer

Both The Exorcist and The Exorcist: Believer revolve around a single parent contending with the demon that has possessed their daughter. But that protagonist was a single mother in the original Exorcist movie. Chris is a working mom raising Regan with the help of a nanny. Regan’s dad was still in the picture; he was just notoriously difficult to get a hold of (he didn’t even think to call his daughter on her birthday). The protagonist of The Exorcist: Believer – Victor Fielding, played by Leslie Odom, Jr. – is a widowed father who lost his wife during an earthquake in Haiti as she gave birth to their daughter Angela.

3 The Exorcist: Believer Is A More Conventional Horror Film Than The Exorcist

Lidya Jewett smiling creepily as a possessed girl in The Exorcist: Believer.

One of the biggest differences between The Exorcist: Believer and its predecessor – and one of the main criticisms levied at the legacy sequel in its most negative reviews – is that the new movie is much more of a conventional horror film than The Exorcist. William Friedkin didn’t make The Exorcist as a horror movie; he made it as a straightforward theological drama about a priest questioning his faith. Friedkin didn’t play up the demonic terror in his direction of The Exorcist. He played the story totally straight, took the characters seriously as human beings in extraordinary circumstances, and let the terror speak for itself.

The Exorcist: Believer, on the other hand, uses all the tropes and clichés in the possession movie playbook. All the cheap thrills and jump scares that The Exorcist’s slew of rip-offs relied on are on full display in The Exorcist: Believer. In its attempts to one-up the original, The Exorcist: Believer includes as many demonic scares as possible. The movie is a series of sequences of possessed kids doing generic possessed kid things. The Exorcist is an effective horror movie because it’s not really styled as a horror movie, but The Exorcist: Believer is content to bask in genre conventions.

2 Chris & Regan MacNeil Are Estranged In The Exorcist: Believer

Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist: Believer

In the original Exorcist movie, Chris and Regan share a heartwarming mother-daughter bond. When Regan is scared, Chris lets her sleep in her bed. When Chris gets a day off work, she dedicates that day to having as much fun with Regan as possible (especially on Regan’s birthday). But in The Exorcist: Believer, they’re estranged. Regan hasn’t talked to Chris in years, feeling betrayed by the success of her mother’s memoir about her own struggles with demonic possession. The mother and daughter do reunite by the end of the film, but their relationship was strained for years in between movies.

1 The Demon Gets A Victory At The End Of The Exorcist: Believer

Lidya Jewett in The Exorcist: Believer

The demon in the original Exorcist movie doesn’t get a win. Pazuzu finally leaves Regan and instead possesses Father Karras, who proceeds to jump through the bedroom window and plunge to his death on the tall staircase below. Pazuzu dies with Karras and Regan’s life goes back to normal. She’s put through the wringer throughout the movie, but Regan is victorious at the end of the film (even if she has no idea what happened). The Exorcist: Believer is a little different in that the demon gets a victory at the end. Angela is freed from her possession, but Lamashtu gets to take Katherine’s soul back to Hell with it.

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