“The Exorcist: Believer” didn’t have a box office prayer without a word-of-mouth comeback.
The film earned a respectable $27 million in its opening frame, at least by horror movie standards.
Read the fine print.
Universal shelled out $400 million for the “Exorcist” brand, including a planned trilogy of films and theme park attractions, among other synergy-driven plans. That put pressure on “Believer,” which brought back series star Ellen Burstyn to the franchise.
The film earned withering reviews out of the gate, but horror fans aren’t always beholden to critics. The “Saw” franchise is a prime example. Audiences have mostly ignored film scribes over the past two decades, making the low-budget series a perennial winner where it counts.
The box office.
That $400 million price tag still looms large over the rebooted franchise, one released in the heart of Halloween season during the original film’s 50th anniversary year.
Horror fans aren’t rallying to the sequel’s side.
1. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour – $97m (new)
2. The Exorcist: Believer – $11m for $44.92m
3. PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie – $7m for $49.86mhttps://t.co/2wImH0qX6N #BoxOffice #TheExorcistBeliever #PAWPatrolMovie #taylorswifterastourmovie
— The Numbers (@MovieNumbers) October 15, 2023
“Believer” stumbled 58 percent in its second week despite adding 21 more screens to its nationwide tally. For comparison’s sake, “Saw X” dropped just 27 percent in its third weekend. And, with a $41 million haul to date, it could lap “Believer” at the box office finish line when the Halloween season wraps.
“Believer’s” modest budget – a reported $30 million – will be covered in short order. The film already earned $44.9 million over two weeks, plus an additional $40 million overseas.
So what happened? Why couldn’t “Believer” duplicate the success of the recent “Halloween” reboot series?
Director David Gordon Green is proving an unreliable hand in the horror genre. His 2018 “Halloween” reboot delivered exactly what fans craved, a chilling return to the world of Michael Myers. His follow-up films, “Halloween Kills” and “Halloween Ends,” lost their momentum and showed the franchise villain too much to build any genre tension.
The less said about the subplot that derails “Ends,” the better.
Green’s “Exorcist” also threw out the franchise’s core principles. The new story doesn’t rely on Catholicism to counter the demon in play. Instead, we’re given a collection of belief systems coming together to save not one but two girls from demonic possession.
It’s like making a “Jaws” sequel and leaving out the shark.
The team behind “The Exorcist” reboot wasn’t comfortable embracing faith in a way that the series demands. Ironically, the recent “Conjuring” films have been far more willing to evoke God and found sizable success at the box office.
- “The Conjuring” (2013) – $137 million
- “The Conjuring 2” (2016) – $102 million
- “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (2021) – $65 million
Those films focused on the real-life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a deeply faithful duo who claimed to have spent decades fighting back demonic forces.
Plus, Burstyn’s character complains about the “Patriarchy” in the most embarrassing way possible in “Believer,” a scene that will make any horror junkie’s eyes roll.
A woke subplot finds a former nun stepping up when a priest refuses to participate in the planned exorcism.
The new film’s biggest problem? “The Exorcist” remains one of the scariest movies ever made, but all “Believer” can do is trot out snazzier FX and a few cheap jump scares to grab our attention.