Is The Exorcist: Believer a sequel to the original movie?

13th March 1974: The exterior of the Leicester Square Warner cinema in London, which is showing 'The Exorcist'. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
13th March 1974: The exterior of the Leicester Square Warner cinema in London, which is showing 'The Exorcist'. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images) /

When the classic horror film The Exorcist originally came out in the year 1973, news stories were released detailing how audience members were passing out and having to be taken away from theaters by ambulance. All of this, allegedly, due to the truly terrifying and disturbing content of the film. Now, 50 years later, news of a new trilogy in the Exorcist saga promises to try and replicate the sensational release of the first.

The Exorcist was based on the 1971 original novel of the same name, written by William Peter Blatty. It was directed by William Friedkin, who imbued the film with amazing special effects and a disturbing ambience that has helped the film live on in infamy for five decades – ask anyone on the street, and The Exorcist will come up as one of the scariest movies of all time. It’s also inspired many knock-offs and spoofs, which has lent to its status as a classic.

What is the original The Exorcist about?

The original film told the story of an actress named Chris who is filming a movie in Washington D.C. while raising her 12 year old daughter Regan. Regan starts behaving bizarrely and her mother comes to the conclusion that she has been possessed by a demonic entity- it’s up to Chris to find help in the form of two priests, one of whom is having a crisis of faith, and dispel the demon from her precious daughter.

Worldwide reaction to the film was polarizing, to say the least. Many thought the disturbing content of the film was truly demonic and lambasted religion- others were truly disturbed by scenes in the film that were helped along by special effects that were both revolutionary and simple. The scenes of the possessed Regan come to mind, where her head spins around in a perfect 360 degrees, and spews a green bile from her mouth towards the priests. The movie became well known for making audiences cringe, all the while asking. “How did they DO that?” Audience reaction, as well as the well thought out plot and realistic characters, helped make The Exorcist a film that lives on to this day, 50 years on. It’s no wonder it’s lent its name to many sequels.

Are there other sequels to The Exorcist?

There were two sequels made after the original film – the first was released in 1977 and called The Exorcist II: The Heretic. It didn’t receive the glowing reviews that first film did, but still, a third sequel was green lit and was released quite some time later in 1990 as The Exorcist III. These two other films aren’t as highly regarded today as the original, but that only speaks to the quality of the first – it’s hard to follow something that was so well received and truly frightening, that it’s hard to create anything worthy to stand beside it.

Is The Exorcist: Believer a direct sequel to The Exorcist?

According to press releases regarding the new trilogy that is being planned in the Exorcist universe, The Exorcist: Believer will indeed be a direct sequel to The Exorcist, forgoing all the previous sequels, a la the new Halloween films that disregard all of the previous sequels in the franchise. And also, like the newer Halloween films that have been released, director David Gordon Green will be helming three Exorcist sequels that we will be getting in the coming years.

The plot for The Exorcist: Believer involves not just one possessed child, but two. In the film, a father who doesn’t know where to turn tracks down Chris from the original movie, as she is the only person left who has experience in this terrifying arena. She promises to use her past experience with her possessed daughter Regan to help the new family overcome, and it looks to equal the original in shocking scenes of horror and heartbreak. It even has Ellen Burstyn returning as Chris, which is amazing, as she’s still imbuing the character with pathos and motherly love fifty years on.

As we await the start of the new trilogy of Exorcist films, we can hope that they do justice to the original and are welcome additions to the horror genre. If anything, we’ll all get a few good scares in. The Exorcist: Believer will be released in theaters Oct. 13, 2023.

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