After director David Gordon Green revived the Halloween franchise with his trilogy of sequels, Universal tapped him to do the same thing with The Exorcist–make a direct sequel to the original film, and get a modern franchise going. And now we have The Exorcist: Believer, positioned as the first entry in a new trilogy (box office performance pending, presumably).
Despite that franchise plan, Believer functions in a fairly standalone way, allowing for the possibility of continuing the story while also concluding things in a way that would work pretty well if they don’t make any others. It’s hard to talk about it in these vague terms, though–it’s time to get spoilery.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the entire plot of The Exorcist: Believer, including the ending.
The Exorcist: Believer plot recap
Believer begins in Haiti, where Victor and his pregnant wife are on their honeymoon. But an earthquake strikes, and she’s injured in a building collapse. The doctors tell Victor they can save the mom or the baby, but not both–and he has to choose.
Cut to the present day. Victor has a 13-year-old daughter named Angela, and his wife is dead. Angela, naturally, is a little bit obsessed with her mother since she never knew her, and one day she swipes one of her mom’s old earrings and goes into the woods with her friend Katherine to do some light ritualizing. They don’t seem too serious about it, but the demons hear them anyway.
The girls go missing without a trace, and then reappear a few days later in a barn, many miles away, thinking they’d only been gone a few hours. From there we get the standard demonic escalation. They seem relatively normal, but traumatized, at first, and then they gradually get ruder, cruder, and uglier as the demon’s presence becomes more obvious in both Angela and Katherine.
Victor calls up Chris McNeil, the mom from the original Exorcist. But she isn’t able to do much to help aside from hearing some mean comments about her daughter Regan (the girl who was possessed in the original movie) and getting stabbed in both eyes by Katherine. Both things lay out the stakes and the reality of the possession, and so Victor, Katherine’s family of evangelicals and their pastor, and some concerned neighbors (a Catholic woman and a Pentecostal man) prepare for the big, climactic exorcism scene. And in addition to the three varieties of Christian, Victor also recruits a pagan priestess to get in on it.
There’s no Catholic priest involved at first, though, because the local diocese forbade the neighborhood priest from participating. But he believes the possession is real, and as the exorcism begins, he’s sitting outside, in his car, praying. Inside, things are going pretty poorly, and the good guys aren’t really making any headway. The priest, sensing that, decides to show up and bring the power of Christ with him.
So he pops in and starts issuing his rites on the demon-possessed girls. The movie indicates it’s working, with the music rising triumphantly as the priest does the whole exorcism routine. But it’s just a ruse–the demon doesn’t care about the priest’s rite of exorcism at all. And it demonstrates that by telekinetically causing the priest’s head to turn all the way backwards until he is dead.
What happens at the end of The Exorcist: Believer?
From there, we get two major developments. First: The demon reveals that Victor told the doctors in Haiti all those years before to save his wife, not his daughter. But her injuries were too severe, and they ended up having to save Angela by default, against Victor’s wishes in the moment.
The second big thing: The demon says that Angela’s and Katherine’s parents get to choose which of the two girls gets to live, and which one has the unholy privilege of going back to Hell with the demon. Victor says nothing–he and Katherine’s mom agree they can’t make that choice, and decide to fight for both of them. But the demon says that if they don’t choose, it will take them both. And after some more fun times with demons, Katherine’s father gives into temptation and chooses her.
From there, everything wraps up pretty quickly. It turns out the demon had tricked them–the one that was chosen would be the one who died, and the other would get to live. So Katherine’s spirit is dragged to Hell, and Angela gets to live, just like what happened with Victor’s choice all those years before.
As horror movie endings go, that’s a pretty good one–it’s both viscerally disturbing in the moment, and then once those raw feelings fade, it’s just depressing. That’s great. But knowing that two sequels are on the way changes the perspective a little bit. It’s not hard to imagine that this group will run afoul of more demons by trying to find a way to save Katherine from her damnation.
That sequel, scheduled for 2025, is already subtitled “Deceiver”–a good title for a movie in which the characters wrestle with the consequences of being tricked in such a horrible way. The possibility that Katherine might return from her fate theoretically lessens the emotional impact of this ending, but we’ve still got a while before we find out anything about Deceiver. And it’s likely that the unenthusiastic response to Believer from critics will inspire some kind of adjustment to whatever plans they may have already had for the story.
But as it stands now: Angela is alive and recovering from her ordeal, and Katherine is in Hell. But with two more movies coming, it’s hardly safe to assume the state of things will stay the same.
Does The Exorcist: Believer have a mid-credits or post-credits scene?
No, there aren’t any extra scenes or any teases for future Exorcist movies during the credits. So once the credits get started, it’s safe to head to the bathroom if you need to.
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