12 things you need to know about The Exorcist: Believer

The recent passing of William Friedkin, along with this year’s religious horror releases The Pope’s Exorcist and The Nun II, has us yearning for another hit of the unholy: a fresh chapter in The Exorcist franchise, long dormant until the guys behind the Halloween reboots took possession of the iconic horror property.

We’ve been blessed with these 12 hellish facts about The Exorcist: Believer, from new and familiar faces in the cast to sinful sequels that might already be on the horizon. The power of Christ compels you to scroll!

1. It’s been exactly 50 years since The Exorcist premiered

Nothing’s been same since William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s controversial novel hit cinemas on Boxing Day, 1973. In the half-century since then, we’ve seen countless stories try—and fail—to replicate The Exorcist‘s sickening slow burn of religious trauma, and it’s still often regarded as the scariest film of all time.

In an excerpt from The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear on Film, Matt Glasby explained to Flicks just how the film developed its ungodly grip on audience imaginations. “Upon release, it was supposed to have caused fainting, vomiting, even heart attacks among audiences. It was cursed, the crew said; evil, according to preacher Billy Graham; banned in England and Australia.” Thankfully censors have gotten a bit more ballsy since then: we’ll have no trouble lining up for The Exorcist: Believer on opening day.

2. It’s made by the same team as the Halloween sequel trilogy

Reuniting Jamie Lee Curtis’s legendary final girl Laurie Strode with her eternal boogeyman Michael Myers, David Gordon Green’s trilogy of Halloween reboots were the definition of hit-or-miss (slash-or-miss?). But the director, formerly known for goofy stoner comedies such as Pineapple Express, has been given a new chance at adapting a genre classic for modern times. He’s working with Halloween collaborators Peter Sattler, Scott Teems, and Danny McBride (yep, that Danny McBride, who is ironically starring in a religious satire ATM) to pen and produce this latest fresh take, admitting to Empire that the Halloween and Exorcist sandboxes require a very different approach. “The Halloween movies are in the slasher genre,” Green said. “They’re a place to play, and maybe have some campy fun. But this one was more researched and a bit academic. The narrative we were sculpting, and the relationships, were more dramatic.”

3. Late The Exorcist director William Friedkin might be haunting David Gordon Green?

Were you, like us, devastated by the passing of director William Friedkin? Here’s a fun bit of hearsay from beyond the grave for ya. Writer and critic Ed Whitfield posted on Twitter (X, whatever) and Facebook that Friedkin had told him that if his “signature film is about to be extended by the man who made Pineapple Express“, the director planned “to possess David Gordon Green and make his life a living hell”.

Now this may be total bullshit—but then again, the recently deceased director was known to be pretty salty, especially when it came to the legacy of his best-known, Oscar-nominated movie. Either way, we hope DGG doesn’t get any nocturnal visits from Captain Howdy/Satan/the late, great director anytime soon.

4. Lydia Jewett and Olivia Marcum play Pazuzu’s latest victims

“One girl lives, one girl dies”, Marcum growls in the latest trailer for The Exorcist: Believer. Smiling and innocent in the teaser’s opening scenes, they’re soon left writhing in the grip of dual, full-body possessions: two tremendously physical performances from very young, relatively untested child actors. As the film’s official synopsis tells us, Angela (Jewett) and Katherine (Marcum) are tween besties who go missing in the woods for three days, and return with no memory of what happened to them out there. We can’t reeeeally confirm that the devils possessing the girls are related to the original film’s arch-demon Pazuzu, but whatever’s inside them certainly seems to remember one Chris MacNeil…

5. Ellen Burstyn makes her return as OG Exorcist mum Chris MacNeil

At age 90, Academy Award-winner Burstyn is still game for some exorcism action, initially turning down the chance to reprise her role before her The Exorcist: Believer salary was doubled. She used her fee to fund a scholarship for the Actors Studio at Pace University, where Burstyn is a lifelong member and co-president. In the trailers showcasing Chris’s return, she seems understandably rattled, but also curious—willing to share her traumatic memories of how the demon inside her daughter Regan was once banished.

6. It’s a story of “synchronised possessions”—and how different parents deal with it

The long-awaited direct sequel adopts a tried and tested sequel approach: take what the first film did and double it. With two victims seemingly possessed by one greedy demonic entity, The Exorcist: Believer is adapting a real-world demonology concept, making diagnosis and treatment very difficult for each of the girls’ parents. Whilst Katherine’s parents (Leslie Nettles and Norbert Leo Butz) are god-fearing, church-going Christians, Angela’s single dad Victor (Broadway star Leslie Odom Jr.) has lost his faith. Director David Gordon Green says that these differing value systems make their decisions all the more complicated, in the below video from Fandango.

“Beyond just the frustrations of possession”, Green explains, “we also have parents trying to figure out how this works when they might have a disagreement about what this actually is; what’s causing this; where does the clinical meet the spiritual, the medical and psychological?” That conundrum was pretty concisely and terrifyingly summed up in the original film, in that unforgettable scene of Regan squirming as her artery gets tapped. Sometimes, the cure is as agonising as the sickness.

7. The Handmaid’s Tale villain Ann Dowd appears as a woman of faith

Dowd is one of those character actors who single-handedly makes whatever she appears in better, from The Leftovers to her ever-so-hateable, Emmy-winning role in The Handmaid’s Tale. While it’s unclear whether Dowd is playing an exorcist herself in this new horror sequel, or merely a well-meaning (but probably disposable) religious leader, she sure gets some hefty lines in the film’s latest trailer. “The devil has one wish”, she warns the ailing girls’ parents: “to make us lose faith. And the devil never gives up.” In Dowd We Trust.

8. Linda Blair was a much-needed advisor on set

At age 14, Linda Blair gave the horror world one of its most enduringly iconic performances, earning a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nom for her fearsome commitment as The Exorcist‘s Regan MacNeil. But it can’t have been an emotionally easy job. Blair has since claimed that she has had to be “extremely polite about answering questions about The Exorcist almost every single day of [her] life”, so at least she could channel that frustration positively for The Exorcist: Believer.

The verdict is still out on whether or not Blair could make a sneaky cameo in the film, but she certainly made an impact advocating for the franchise’s newest young actresses. Green told Total Film that Blair had ample experience as a vulnerable child actor, and was brought on set as an advisor “because we’re dealing with young people, and we want to take them to dangerous places safely”.

9. The film’s US release date was bumped up to avoid competition with Tay-Tay

Nothing can scare off an Exorcist. Except, maybe, Taylor Swift’s globe-dominating Eras Tour, which was recently announced as a concert doco set to storm US cinemas on October 13. The Exorcist: Believer originally shared that same unholy release date, and so to avoid competition, the horror film got bumped forward to the slightly-less-spooky date of October 6.

A double feature isn’t a bad idea, really: we knew Pazuzu was trouble when he walked in/it’s me, hi, I’m Pazuzu it’s me, etc.

10. It’s not the first direct sequel to The Exorcist that we’ve seen, naturally

The less said about the confounding Exorcist II: The Heretic, the better. Exorcist 3 actually rocks, but it has very little to do with what went down with the MacNeils in Washington. The Exorcist: Believer looks to be wiping that whole slate of sequels clean in order to cut right back to the happenings of the original film, but by doing so it also erases the under-appreciated horrors of The Exorcist TV show. You might find this spooky series worth a watch before the latest film in the franchise arrives, as it’s an entertaining, eerie episodic delight. And yes, that is Alan Ruck and Geena Davis in the image above! Is she somehow connected to the OG Exorcist timeline? I’m not gonna tell you here, watch the show!

11. Mike Oldfield’s iconic “Tubular Bells” will creep its way back into our ears again

Released in 1973 by a then-19-year-old Oldfield, the opening theme to instrumental LP “Tubular Bells” has since become instantly recognisable as “The Exorcist Theme”. Director William Friedkin heard the album entirely by chance and loved it so much, he even chose to feature it instead of an original score created by legendary composer Lalo Schifrin. The Exorcist: Believer has already made great use of this ever-haunting track in its trailers, and hey, here’s some guy playing the lovely refrain on some bowls.

Taken out of its horror canon context, the tune—and the two-song album from which it comes—can be beautiful, meditative, and quite hopeful in parts. But let’s be real: when you hear those chimes, all you’re picturing is pea soup and a hatted figure, standing in the fog below an ominous townhouse.

12. A sequel and threequel might possess our screens soon

In October 2021, David Gordon Green confirmed that parts two and three of his latest horror-sequel-remake-trilogy-thingy were already outlined as scripts, written by Green and collaborator Peter Sattler. The second film is set to be called The Exorcist: Deceiver, already set for release in April 2025. What’s the third one gonna be, Exorcist: Golden Retriever? Ha Ha Ha.

If this sick new poster is to be believed, it’s going to take the spiritual might of “every culture…every religion” on earth to vanquish this latest unstoppable demon. Will the suffering characters of The Exorcist: Believer make it into the second and third entries? We can only pray.