The Exorcist - Believer: Ending Explained (In Detail)

What has become of the MacNeils in the fifty years since the events of ‘The Exorcist’? What happens to the characters in the latest film?
The Exorcist - Believer: Ending Explained (In Detail)

With The Exorcist (1973), William Friedkin contributed to a burgeoning demand for horror films, following in the footsteps of Roman Polanski, who made Rosemary’s Baby (1969), and Robert Wise, who turned the famous Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) into a film with The Haunting (1963). Unlike those films, which spawned legacy productions, remakes, and retreads in different media to diverse reception, Friedkin’s film, instead, served as the starting point for an immensely-successful franchise. Two sequels followed The Exorcist, followed by a duology of prequels, and with David Gordon Green’s The Exorcist: Believer (2023), the makers are striving to assemble a trilogy that succeeds the first three films.

Leslie Odom Jr., Lidya Jewett, Olivia O‘Neill, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, and Ann Dowd are cast in significant roles, and the production brings back actors Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair to reprise their characters from the original film. Green, Scott Teems, Danny McBride, and Peter Sattler serve as the film’s screenwriters, with Jason Blum, David C. Robinson, and James G. Robinson producing. Universal Pictures boarded this production and two potential sequels as exclusive distributors for a whopping $400 million.

A Demon From Haiti

The film follows Victor Fielding (Odom) and his pregnant wife Sorenne (Tracey Graves), a couple on their honeymoon in Haiti, where they are blessed by a voodoo practitioner. They are caught up in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake while in Haiti, and a situation arises that forces Victor to choose between Sorenne and their child.

The film then cuts to thirteen years later: Victor lives in Georgia, where he is raising his daughter Angela by himself. The traumatic experience of losing his wife has made him lose belief in God, but Angela is curious enough to venture out into the woods with her friend Katherine and attempt to make contact with her mother through a seance. But when the girls go missing, a search operation has to be mounted, and they are located three days later in a barn, not physically harmed but quite shaken by their experience. 

At home, Angela attacks Victor, and at the church, Katherine has an episode when the Holy Sacrament is being celebrated. As Ann (Dowd) a nurse attends to Katherine, the latter’s mother Miranda (Nettles) suggests that the girls somehow travelled to Haiti and brought back a demon with them.

As the girls lapse into a consistently worsening state, Ann discovers that Angela has knowledge of her time training as a nun and of the abortion she had in secret. Disturbed, Ann gives Victor a copy of a memoir by an actress Chris MacNeil (Burstyn), who recounts in it a similar experience she had with her daughter Rgan (Blair) fifty years ago (this is the narrative of The Exorcist). Since then, MacNeil has studied various exorcism techniques and practices across the world and has become rather well-known in the field. The cost, however, has been a relationship with her daughter: Regan has not seen MacNeil in years.

The Exorcist Revisited

Victor meets MacNeil, who agrees to look in on Angela and see what the matter is. When she goes to see Katherine, she performs a deliverance ritual, but the ploy backfires and Katherine stabs MacNeil in the eye, blinding her.

The worried parents and Ann approach the Church to permit an exorcism. MacNeil suggests using methods from varied cultures, and so multiple religious and spiritual practitioners are invited: Father Maddox (E.J. Bonilla) is the local priest, Don Revans (Raphael Sbarge) the Baptist pastor, Stuart (Danny McCarthy) a Pentecostal preacher, and Dr. Beehibe (Okwui Okpokwasili), a rootwork healer. The intention is to conduct an interdenominational exorcism, but Maddox is forbidden from participating by the local diocese, which believes the girls are suffering from psychiatric problems.

During the exorcism, it is revealed that all those years ago in Haiti, Victor had chosen to keep Sorenne alive, but she died from the injuries she had sustained and Angela lived. Holy water is poured on the girls to get at the spirits, passages from texts are read out, and religious symbols used, but nothing appears to work.

The demon that has taken over the girls offers the parents a choice: They can choose one of the girls, and she will live. Neither Victor nor Katherine’s parents are willing to let the other’s child die. Meanwhile, Maddox shows up out of the blue, having defied the diocese, and starts to read from the Roman Ritual, only for the demon to kill him. 

Victor, in this moment of dire straits, prays for the first time in over a decade, relying on the prayer he said as a child. He apologises to Angela and ties Sorenne’s old scarf onto her. Suddenly, Katherine’s father Tony yells out his desire to save his daughter and Angela appears to lose her heartbeat.

Only One Gets to Live

Katherine awakens in another yell and screams out for her parents, revealing that the demon had used the choice ambivalently, and that the girl whose parents chose her would not live but die. Katherine is dragged away to hell, even as back at the exorcism site, Angela starts breathing again. 

The film ends with Angela going back to school while Katherine’s parents mourn the passing of their daughter. Victor visits Sorenne’s grave and in hospital, MacNeil is reunited with Regan, who has chosen to forgive her.

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