Saturday, June 15, 2024

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    The Exorcist- Believer Faces a Scary Challenge Despite High Hopes

    From a business perspective, “The Exorcist: Believer” is suddenly looking quite daunting. As the first installment of a planned horror trilogy, it’s facing less-than-stellar reviews, with a mere 27 percent average on Rotten Tomatoes.

    While the Exorcist franchise has often left critics unimpressed, it’s essential to note that “Believer” isn’t just another sequel. Universal Pictures reportedly paid a staggering $400 million for the franchise rights in 2021, and this film needs to generate enough momentum to pave the way for two more sequels.

    Initially, the film appeared to be on track for a strong weekend opening, possibly setting a franchise record with estimates of $30 million to $35 million. However, it remains uncertain whether the recently published negative reviews will impact ticket sales, as horror films often prove to be review-proof. The tracking figures are on par with Universal’s recently released “The Nun 2.” Yet, as producer Jason Blum pointed out in March, “The Exorcist: Believer” must deliver impressive box office returns. Blum’s 2018 reboot of the Halloween franchise, directed by David Gordon Green like “Believer,” opened with $77 million.

    Blum acknowledged the film’s significant financial risk, stating, “The riskiest movie I have ever made for sure is not out yet, it’s ‘The Exorcist.’ Just because it’s so expensive. Usually, the bar to success on everything we do because it’s inexpensive is incredibly low. For ‘The Exorcist,’ it’s high.”

    The film’s storyline revolves around Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.), whose daughter and her friend become possessed. Ellen Burstyn also returns to the franchise in her first appearance since the original film.

    Critics have not been kind to “Believer.” Some of the harshest reviews include The New York Times’ snarky remark, “Double the possession, half the fun,” and The AV Club’s “D” grade, describing it as a “grab bag of half-baked ideas that never coalesce into a coherent theme or a reason to exist.” One critic even dubbed it “the worst horror film of the year, despite Odom’s brilliance.” However, there are a few positive reviews, with The Guardian and Empire among the outliers.

    These reviews come in the wake of low-budget horror films like Lionsgate’s “Saw X” (84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and A24’s “Talk to Me” (94 percent “Fresh” rating) performing well critically. Yet, neither of these titles came close to the predicted $30 million domestic opening weekend forecast for “Believer,” a figure that mirrors “The Nun 2,” despite the latter’s middling 52 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    Director David Gordon Green is attached to helm the next film, “The Exorcist: Deceiver,” slated for 2025, and a third, as-yet-untitled installment. In The MegaloPreneur’s review, critic David Rooney suggested that one’s opinion of “Believer” may align with their feelings about Green’s attempts to revitalize John Carpenter’s “Halloween” franchise.

    The success of the new Exorcist sequels might not be as dependent on the first entry being a major hit as some other franchises, as horror movie fans are accustomed to these franchises being hit-or-miss, and the Exorcist brand has a long history.

    Despite the critical reception, “Believer” still has favorable box office tracking, potentially mitigating the impact of the negative reviews. However, Universal executives may still be holding their breath and saying a few prayers as they await the film’s release.

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