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Release Date: December 19th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2023

The Exorcist: Believer - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

David Gordon Green's The Exorcist: Believer ultimately disappoints in generating any suspense, scares or even interest in this terribly dull story about two girls being possessed and a community of different religious denominations coming together to save them, failing to make believers out of devout fans of Friedkin's seminal classic. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment exorcises this new franchise entry to 4K Ultra HD with an excellent HDR video, a reference-quality Dolby Atmos track but a lackluster set of supplements. The overall UHD package is Worth A Look for the curious but only when the price is right.

Since his wife’s death, Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) has raised his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) alone. After Angela and her friend (Olivia O’Neill) return from a three-day disappearance with missing memories, they begin displaying frightening behavior. Victor’s best hope is to find the only person who has seen anything like this before: Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), whose haunting experience with her daughter Regan may be the key to combating ultimate evil.
 
Directed by David Gordon Green (Halloween, Prince Avalanche), THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER stars Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, One Night in Miami), Ann Dowd (Hereditary, Compliance), Jennifer Nettles (Harriet), Norbert Leo Butz (Dan in Real Life, Give or Take), Lidya Jewett (Hidden Figures, Good Girls), Olivia O’Neill and reprising her iconic role as Chris MacNeil, Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, Requiem for a Dream).

BONUS FEATURES on 4K UHD, BLU-RAYTM, DVD AND DIGITAL:

  • MAKING A BELIEVER ­­– Filmmakers and cast reveal their collective approach to bringing differing perspectives into this drama about synchronized possessions.      
  • ELLEN AND LINDA: REUNITED – THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER expertly weaves the fates of Chris and Regan MacNeil into its story. Witness a moment of cinema history as these two Hollywood icons meet on-set for the first time in years.
  • STAGES OF POSESSION – Hear from Lidya Jewett, Olivia O'Neill, and special makeup FX designer Christopher Nelson as they discuss the physical and mental changes the girls go through as they advance through the possession.
  • THE OPENING – The first scene of the film takes place in Haiti, a location far from the rest of the story. Filmmakers and star Leslie Odom, Jr. discuss how this scene sets up the rest of the film.
  • EDITING AN EXORCISM – THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER culminates with a riveting exorcism scene featuring all the main characters. Director David Gordon Green and editor Tim Alverson explore the challenges of editing such a big scene.
  • MATTERS OF FAITH – Experts in theology weigh in on how they consulted filmmakers to ensure depictions of the religious ceremonies in the film were as accurate as possible.
  • FEATURE COMMENTARY – with co-writer/director David Gordon Green, executive producer Ryan Turek, co-writer Peter Sattler, and special makeup FX designer Christopher Nelson.            

OVERALL:
Worth a Look
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region Free
Video Resolution/Codec:
HDR10
Length:
111
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
Spanish Dolby Digital 7.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Special Features:
Digital Copy
Release Date:
December 19th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

The first requirement of any movie is that it be entertaining, which naturally, will vary from moviegoer to moviegoer. But it should nonetheless create enough curiosity and interest in both the characters and the story to maintain the viewer's engagement. And at a bare minimum, a horror movie should generate an atmosphere appropriate to the subject matter, establishing an ambiance of the unknown and uncanny. Sadly, director David Gordon Green disappoints at accomplishing either of these requirements in The Exorcist: Believer, his latest attempt to reignite a cult horror favorite by making a direct sequel to the original rather than a remake, much like he did with the Halloween franchise. After a strong and decently exciting opening in Haiti, the story quickly loses interest and becomes a chore to finish. It fails at every turn to arouse curiosity in what happens next let alone develop any sense of dread or terror, relying far too much on predictable jump scares to remind audiences this is, in fact, a horror movie.

At times, it's not entirely clear if even the filmmakers know what movie they intended to make, littering the story with various allusions and rehashing familiar plot points from William Peter Blatty's script. But knowing William Friedkin's original was about something than merely shocks and scares, writers Danny McBride, Scott Teems, and Green attempt to inject some substance into a plot that centers around single father Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) and his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett). However, their situation does little to gain our sympathies for either his helicopter parenting or her natural curiosity about her mother before thrusting the audience into Angela and her secret BFF Katherine (Olivia O’Neill) being possessed. Things only slow so that their neighbor Ann (Ann Dowd) can convince Victor that faith and an exorcism are the only answer for saving the girls. Different belief systems, including a hoodoo healer, begin to clash as the story progresses, but it's all rather contrived and insincere, only done to point out how divided society is and that only by working together can they succeed despite their differences. Unfortunately, the end result is a ham-fisted and wooden message in a terribly dull and tedious dreck. 

To quote my fellow colleague Matthew Hartman when we chatted about this snore-fest, Green and McBride demonstrated in the Halloween franchise that they know the recipe for cooking up good horror but appear clueless about how to make it into a memorable feast. They either ran out of ingredients or didn't have enough for the editing room to at least create the appearance of a delectable French cuisine. Instead, this mess is a weak attempt at masking the fact that they actually ordered out for a Little Ceasar's Hot & Ready that'd been sitting in the car for two days. Even then, they throw it in the microwave and serve it to horror hounds hoping no one will notice. The Exorcist: Believer fails to make believers out of us. It's bad when even the return of an icon like Ellen Burstyn reprising her role of fifty years ago fails to generate excitement and just leaves you feeling sorry for her. But then you stop feeling sorry when you find out she only took the role when producers would pay her more so she could donate it to her acting school's scholarship fund. So at least someone got something out of this. 

For a more in-depth take on the film, check out Bryan Kluger's theatrical review HERE.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings The Exorcist: Believer to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code, users have access to the 4K Dolby Vision HDR version with Dolby Atmos audio. The triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-elite case with a lightly embossed slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static menu screen with the usual options along the left side while music plays in the background.

Video Review

Ranking:

If only Believer were as good as it looks and sounds, debuting on Ultra HD with a fantastic, highly-detailed HEVC H.265 encode. Shot exclusively on the Arri Alexa digital camera system, the freshly-minted transfer boasts clean, well-defined lines, and various objects decorating the Fielding household are plainly visible in the background. A few soft moments are scattered about due to some creative photographic choices, and occasionally, some of the sharpest edges show evidence of very mild aliasing. Overall, the HDR10 presentation is in outstanding shape, displaying a spot-on contrast and brightness balance. Strong, crisp specular highlights supply the horror with some dramatic pop in the hottest areas while whites are vivid and squeaky-clean throughout. Black levels are true and accurate with dark midnight shadows that maintain excellent delineation during the darkest moments and provide the 1.85:1 image some dimensionality. For a supernatural horror flick, the 4K video is surprisingly colorful, flaunting bold, richly saturated primaries while earthy secondary hues are vibrant and full-bodied, giving much of the horrific imagery an interestingly warm, cozy aesthetic. (HDR10 Video Rating: 92/100)

Audio Review

Ranking:

While the movie fails to drum up some scares, a reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack thankfully picks up the slack to generate some satisfying chills. Much of the action is understandably spread across the front soundstage, which feels wide and spacious as background activity smoothly and convincingly moves into the off-screen space and the top heights. An extensive mid-range maintains sharp distinction and clarity throughout, even during the noisiest, most chaotic moments such as the exorcism scenes. A weighty and effective low-end provides some couch-shaking heft and presence to the visuals with a couple of moments that dig deep into the lower depths during those aforementioned exorcism scenes. The surrounds and height channels are employed almost continuously with various ambient effects, like birds chirping in the distance or the rustling of leaves blowing in trees, filling the room to create a hemispheric soundfield. However, the most impressive and immersive moments, unsurprisingly, are in the final quarter of the movie as random noise and debris are distinctly heard flying in all directions, and the Haiti earthquake in the opening is layered with the sounds of rubble and cracks happening directly above the listening area. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)

Special Features

Ranking:

Universal exorcises the latest franchise entry with a surprisingly puny collection of bonuses, which are shared with the Blu-ray version. 

  • Audio Commentary with writer/director David Gordon Green, co-writer Peter Sattler, executive producer Ryan Turek and special makeup artist Christopher Nelson
  • Making a Believer (HD, 9 min) is an EPK-style look at the production with BTS footage and interviews
  • Stages of Possession (HD, 6 min) comes with interviews of the two young actors and makeup artist Nelson discussing the process and preparation going into the makeup effects
  • The Opening (HD, 6 min) looks at the opening sequence set in Haiti
  • Ellen and Linda: Reunited (HD, 5 min) has the two actors talking about their on-screen appearances at the end of the film
  • Editing an Exorcism (HD, 5 min) features interviews with Green and editor Tim Alverson about the final exorcism sequence
  • Matters of Faith (HD, 4 min) is arguably the most interesting piece as it features interviews with theology experts and how they consulted on the exorcism scenes to be accurate as possible

After an exciting opening sequence, David Gordon Green's The Exorcist: Believer ultimately disappoints to keep the same level of suspense and interest in this terribly mundane and dull story co-written by Green and Danny McBride. Although it features a strong performance by Leslie Odom Jr., the plot about two girls being possessed and a community of different religious denominations coming together to save them fails to make believers of devout fans of Friedkin's seminal classic. Burstyn does her best to lend some credibility, but that's too much weight for her character to hold. Even a last-second cameo from another key player feels flimsy. Since Universal reportedly spent $400 million just to get the rights, we'll have to wait and see if another entry in the franchise can possess our attention. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment exorcises this new franchise entry to 4K Ultra HD with an excellent 4K HDR10 presentation and a reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The overall package comes with a lackluster set of supplements as well, making this UHD edition Worth A Look when the price is right. In the end, this is another sad case of bad flick but good disc. 

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about the gear used for this review.