The Exorcist: Believer is a worthy addition to saga

THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER (MA15+)

Director: David Gordon Green (Halloween)

Starring: Lesley Odom Jr, Lidya Jewett, Ellen Burstyn, Olivia Marcum

Rating:hhhk

What the devil has got into them both?

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They say that possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Except in the world of exorcisms, where possession – demonic possession, that is – gets you nine-tenths of the way to the gates of hell.

Hollywood movies have hauled us to this same, sinister place before. Most notoriously in a production that just happens to be celebrating its 50th birthday this year: The Exorcist.

Widely regarded as one of the scariest mainstream motion pictures of all time, The Exorcist had its enthralled and appalled audience sleeping with the light on for most of the 1970s.

Certain images in that movie emitted an ick that continues to stick some five decades later.

This poor young lady named Regan MacNeil (famously played by Linda Blair) had a neck that could rotate 361 degrees, an ability to telepathically rearrange furniture and then coat it in a varnish of pea-soup vomit, and a tendency to taunt and tear apart any priest that got on her bad side.

The original The Exorcist spawned such a sensation at the box-office that a sleazy, queasy collection of sequels – each one cheaper and nastier than the one before – kept building over the years until everyone was bored to tears.

Until now. The Exorcist: Believer is such a worthy addition to the saga that it puts the defunct devil-be-gone franchise well and truly back in business.

Sure, the original will always be the best, but this reinvigorating reboot holds up strongly under direct comparison.

Unlike most modern horror movies, Believer shows great restraint in its opening hour, focusing on building a mood and framing a mystery that will ensnare many a viewer by the final act.

All you really need to know going in is that this Exorcist movie will be delivering two satanic slam-dunkings for the price of one.

Two teenage girls, Angela (Lidya Jewett) and Katherine (Olivia Marcum), go missing for a few days after a walk in the local woods.

Upon their return, both young ladies have no recollection of what happened during their disappearance. However, it soon becomes clear each is filled with a demonic spirit that needs to be emptied ASAP.

A committee of concerned parents (led by Leslie Odom Jr.) send out an SOS answered by a pioneering expert in the field of satanic possession: none other than Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), the now-elderly mother of Regan.

A SWAT team of priests, prayer groups and freaky fringe-dwellers aligned with various Christian faiths gather for the big purge.

Crosses catch fire. Holy water turns to vapour. Bibles turn their own pages, and tear themselves up. Chairs rumble. Beds spin. Walls are cracked open. Doors are slammed close.

And then, through the mouths of those two poor young women thrashing, swearing and frothing wildly, The Devil speaks.

You will have no choice but to listen, and no choice but to be scared.

The Exorcist: Believer is now showing in general release

THE RINGLEADER: THE CASE OF THE BLING RING (M)

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Now streaming on Binge and Foxtel

The ‘Bling Ring’ robberies of the mid-2000s – when a bad-apple bunch of no-name LA teens burgled the crash-pads of some big-name celebs – have been extensively covered in a variety of forms (most notably, a 2013 feature film starring Emma Watson and a widely-watched series on Netflix last year). Though this HBO doco is a little late to the party, it does have something all those other Bling Ring projects did not: the full co-operation and participation of the gang’s manipulative girl-boss, Rachel Lee. An interesting, if infuriating presence here, Ms. Lee is not the most reliable narrator of her own misdeeds. This actually turns out to be the point of the doco: presenting our worst moments in the best possible light can only lead to more denials, more damage and more lies.

SAW X (MA15+)

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General release

If you must see one horror movie this Halloween month, it should be The Exorcist: Believer. However, those who have hung tough through the few highs and many lows of the long-running Saw series should be made aware their patience is finally being amply rewarded here. Remarkably, this tenth addition to the Saw canon is actually the best of the lot. Sure, it didn’t have to beat much but, hey, a win is a win. Timeline-wise, this one doubles back to just after the first Saw, when maniacal mastermind Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) had first been diagnosed with cancer. After paying a fortune for treatment that is patently useless, a justifiably peeved Jigsaw designs a room full of gnarly traps that will trap, torment and torture the medics responsible for his malaise. In true Saw tradition, the apex of this revenge scheme is cover-your-eyes stuff. However, there is a deranged dignity to Jigsaw’s kooky crusade that earns this instalment a genuine pass mark.

Originally published as Believer is a worthy addition to The Exorcist saga

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