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'The Exorcist: Believer' Trailer Looks Scary As Hell. Let's Hope Blumhouse Nails This One (Bonus: Meeting Ellen Burstyn Story)

The Exorcist is a classic and I'm sure there are diehard horror fans out there who are terrified that The Exorcist: Believer is a cash grabby, cheap nostalgia play. To my knowledge, there had been zero trailer situation before this one. Pretty light marketing. Was starting to wonder about that October 13 release date. Given the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, maybe it will still get pushed back.

But yeah, all those concerns aside, Blumhouse has a pretty damn good batting average. As the modern house of horror, the Jason Blum-driven production company has made a killing at the box office on movies that don't do well with critics in may instances. Case in point: Insidious: The Red Door had a 38% Rotten Tomatoes score, yet has grossed $156.9 million against a $16 million budget. CHA-CHING.

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DAMN RIGHT, DANNY MCBRIDE!

What about The Exorcist, you ask? Try $428.2 million against a $12 million budget back in 1973! WHEW.

Speaking of McBride, though, he gets a co-story credit on The Exorcist: Believer after co-writing the entire Halloween trilogy reboot-ish series that Blumhouse produced. While the initial return of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode was well-received, Halloween Kills was quite a step down, and Halloween Ends made some audacious narrative choices that were far better in concept than they were in execution.

That was the last time Blumhouse was in charge of a beloved preexisting IP. The director and co-writer on all those new Halloween offerings? None other than Believer helmer David Gordon Green. One of the most memorable — obscure to most people, I know, I'm a weirdo — press junket interviews in recent years to me was Green discussing Halloween Ends' writing process. The link takes you right to his response:

I understand that there isn't a one-size-fits-all creative process. It's not uncommon for many writers to be on a movie, even if they're script doctors and don't receive proper credit. Hey look, a longstanding WGA issue pops up! No but seriously…Green and his writing team had this idea of "choose your own adventure" while penning Halloween Ends and to be honest, it really shows in the final product.

The Exorcist: Believer is written by Green and Peter Sattler, who has more crew credits than writing/directing on his resume. Sattler also looks suspiciously like Will Forte's long-lost brother. But I digress.

To actually unpack some of this new Exorcist trailer, it's looking mighty interesting. Leslie Odom Jr. getting top billing is awesome to see. Unless I'm forgetting something, this is the first time he's really gotten that shot for a big-time, major Hollywood studio release. Good on you, Universal. From the looks of it, Odom is taking the ball and running with it. I'm eager to see how he'll fare.

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Apex of the trailer for me? That scene in the church where that possessed girl is repeating, "THE BODY AND THE BLOOD!!!" Damn. With that dual-devil voice going on!?!? EEEEEK.

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A close second is when Odom's character's daughter confronts him in the bathroom. Nice little jump scare. 

The fact that there are two possessed girls in this long-awaited sequel is a cool twist. It's almost like they're preying on each other in a way, or the demon is transferring its essence into both of them somehow. Another element I appreciate is they really look to be nailing the aesthetic of how demonic possession physically transformed Regan in The Exorcist from '73. How her face is all cracked and withering away. They've done a great job emulating that from what's shown here. 

I'm a little confused on the main plot of Believer, which is good. I want to be. Nice to see the trailer isn't spelling everything out or spoiling too much like it often can.

Then of course, what would a movie with these elements be without the return of a legacy cast member? Any big horror buff — or, like me, anyone who's watched the Scream franchise enough — knows this is a big draw. Enter the legendary Ellen Burstyn, reprising the role of Chris MacNeil.

In case you've been too wary of watching the OG, groundbreaking William Friedkin-directed masterpiece, some crazy, crazy things went down on that set. Like more than a couple freak accidents. Both Burstyn and Linda Blair, who played the possessed daughter Regan MacNeil, suffered back injuries. Other crew members got hurt, too. It was as if filming the movie itself was a cursed proposition.

…But of course, they got that thing in the can, and the rest is history. 

It just goes to show, you never know how a movie is going to turn out for sure. Going off of all the chaos on The Exorcist set, you'd think the finished movie would be a disaster. Not in the least. Countless other projects that felt like surefire hits, or were adaptations of best-selling novels or something like that, have misfired.

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Not one, but two sequels to The Exorcist: Believer are in development, so we're getting another trilogy as long as this one does well. Probably still if it doesn't. Shouldn't be too tough to turn a profit based on the movie's name recognition alone — and the fact that Blumhouse tends to do really well with these supernatural/exorcism-style pics, a la the Insidious franchise. The Conjuring universe has done well commercially over at New Line Cinema/Warner Bros, too.

OK but as promised, story time! For those of you who care. I know a lot of readers think this is dumb/irrelevant/self-indulgent. Some do find it interesting. So here goes.

My first day of orientation at The Actors Studio Drama School. Little did the 24 of us newbies know at the time, we had to get up and each individually make speeches to tell the esteemed faculty, some fellow students in the two cohorts above us and our new peers about our journey to get to ASDS. 

From where I sat, it was the culmination of a grind of being burned out at my previous job, taking acting classes on the side and reading as much as I could on my own so I could maybe have a shot at getting into a world-class Master's program. If not, I guess it wasn't meant to be. Juilliard said hell no. UCLA said close but no cigar. Got into ASDS. Cut to orientation day. I'm like the 14th person up. Right when Person No. 13 got up, I started to feel it. Oh no. I'm getting emotional. DUDE. STOP. Don't CRY up there in front of everyone! Nooooooooo!!!!

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Before any of us first-year grad students went up, Ellen Burstyn gave this beautiful speech about acting. How the media creates all this hype and builds this legend around "Method acting." She said it was kinda bullshit. She said there are only two kinds of acting: "Good acting and bad acting." Ms. Burstyn made a specific point to call out her former Requiem for a Dream costar Jared Leto for his hijinks of sending weird items to his castmates when he was the Joker in Suicide Squad. Our beloved chairman of the program and script analysis genius Andreas Manolikakis said some words, too. His voice sounded so cool that's all I could really focus on. He did say we'll be graduating before we know it. No lies told there.

Anyway, I wind up trudging up to the podium and ya boii is down BAD right away. Looking around. Seeing some of these, like, big-deal people. Including, you know, Ellen Burstyn and the extraordinary woman who auditioned me and got me here in the first place, Elizabeth Kemp.

They're all waiting for me to speak. Everything everywhere hit me all at once. I can't get a word out. Like shaky talking. Messy crying. UGH. I wasn't trying to "HAVE A MOMENT" for attention or something. That was the LAST reaction I wanted to have. Ellen Burstyn then said to me in this really, really gentle voice, "It's OK honey. Just breathe. Tell it to me."

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Thank you for the assist, Grant Gustin. NAILED IT.

…And that just made me more of a mess because of how kind she was to such a nobody who she didn't know at all! LOL. That was my thought process at the time. Anyway, glad to report I have more self-esteem nowadays. I bumble-fucked my way through to the end of a segmented/fragmented/staccato soliloquy of stifled eyeball water works, expressing as much gratitude as my vox box would allow without wavering into unintelligibility. Wanted to thank Ms. Burstyn afterwards again but I was a little shy and embarrassed. She just kinda smiled at me and, well, yeah. Cool. I'll take it.

Some pretty insane things happened to me over the course of that three-year program, more to do with dormant/repressed emotions and personal epiphanies than anything else. Day Freaking One was surreal in its own right.

Speaking of Day 1, that's where I'm gonna be when The Exorcist: Believer drops in theaters. The Scream movies helped me appreciate the horror genre more. I really dig the original Exorcist. And I'm on board with the indefatigable grassroots Terrifier franchise.

Less than three months away from another Exorcist flick. What a world. And I'm certainly intrigued to see how the massive turnout for Barbie and Oppenheimer impact the upcoming releases. Check out the latest Lights, Camera, Barstool for more on Barbenheimer.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok

And here's some nerdy actor shit by me:

PS: This clip is pretty much the main reason I applied to ASDS in the first place. My literal mindset was, "HAHA. I'll never get in there. Oh well. I'll give it a shot." Changed my life.

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