Leslie Odom, Jr. (left) and Ellen Burstyn star in “The Exorcist: Believer” (Photo Credit: Eli Joshua Ade/Universal Pictures).
(“The Exorcist: Believer” trailer courtesy of Universal Pictures)
Give actor Leslie Odom Jr. his flowers now because he has become the ultimate chameleon of an actor.
He does not limit himself to genre or even the big screen as his star-turning role in Broadway’s “Hamilton” will attest.
Odom is like a younger Don Cheadle who can play any role in any genre, except Cheadle cannot sing like Odom.
As a result of Odom’s versatility, it is no surprise to see him star in the horror film “The Exorcist: Believer.”
Actually, why would he not want to attach himself to one of the biggest horror franchises in cinema history?
Because of Odom’s dramatic chops and the demonic nature of “The Exorcist” films, the latest installment in the franchise will not disappoint despite not being that horrifying.
In “The Exorcist: Believer,” photographer Victor Fielding (Odom, “One Night in Miami”) is on the precipice of enjoying the American dream.
He has a job/hobby that he is passionate about.
He has the passionate love of his beautiful wife.
And soon he will be passionate about becoming a father.
About to become parents for the first time, Victor and his wife are enjoying a getaway to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The couple has ingratiated themselves into the Haitian culture, becoming very popular with the local youngsters.
One youngster even takes Victor’s wife to a special blessing over her unborn baby.
All is well until a massive earthquake rocks the island nation, leaving Victor with an excruciating decision to make.
In “The Exorcist: Believer,” Victor must choose between the lives of his loving wife and his unborn child.
Fast forward 13 years and many miles away, Victor has learned to navigate life as the single parent to their daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewett).
Angela is a great kid.
She gives her dad a hard time and plays practical jokes on him.
However, that is typical of a teenage girl.
The fact that Angela even wants to hang out with her father as a teenager is a testament to how great a father Victor is.
But despite Angela’s positive attributes, she still has a mischievous side like most adolescents.
In “The Exorcist: Believer” she tells her father that she wants to study at her friend Katherine’s (Olivia Marcum) house after school.
However, the girls have a more sinister plan for their time away from school.
Katherine plans to conduct a séance in the woods so that Angela can talk to her dead mother.
Unfortunately, children wandering off can lead to tragedy such as rape, murder and kidnap.
And when Angela does not return home for supper, Victor obviously fears the worst.
Thankfully, Victor finds Angela alive.
Furthermore, Katherine’s parents eventually find their daughter too.
Although the parents find relief in having their daughters home, something is amiss about the girls.
They left school as innocent young teenagers.
But they have returned home aloof, detached and a bit touched.
When all the medical help in the world does not help Angela and all the church services and prayer does not help Katherine, the parents might have to alter their belief systems and try an approach that might seem a little weird and demented to some.
The only thing that might help the girls is an actual exorcism.
Even that does not present a guarantee.
Actually, performing the exorcism might make things worse because it might put all involved in danger.
While “The Exorcist: Believer” is obviously a horror film and released at the right time (Hollywood has a habit of releasing horror films too soon before Halloween), it unfortunately is not very terrifying.
Despite the lack of horror in “The Exorcist: Believer,” the drama involved takes attention away from that glaring omission.
Every parent’s nightmare is losing a child.
But how devastating would it be to lose a pregnant wife and eventually lose that child before they even reach adulthood?
That is the dilemma facing Victor in “The Exorcist: Believer.”
Although Victor understandably loses his temper at times, he surprisingly keeps his emotions in check despite all he has endured and is enduring because of his daughter’s trials and tribulations.
While Victor’s calm demeanor might see unrealistic to some, maybe that is just his personality.
In fact, keeping calm during a tragedy might actually bring about a better outcome than panicking, which might lead to more chaos.
Although Odom shines the most in “The Exorcist: Believer,” young Jewett shines as well as Angela.
Her backwards character arc from bright and sunny teenager to a demented and devilish daughter is gradual and horrific.
Angela goes from cheerful to quiet and off to herself to shepherd for the devil in less than two hours.
While horror fans probably do not watch horror movies for a moral and a message, “The Exorcist: Believer” definitely has a moral to the story.
Sometimes the love and guidance of one or more parents might not be enough when raising a child.
Often, parents need a community around them and a belief system that can defeat enemies that the eyes cannot see.
Visually, “The Exorcist: Believer” is nothing special, but the collapsing buildings during the Haitian earthquake is compelling and heartbreaking to witness.
But if the focus is on anything other than the actual exorcism, it should be on the rising star that is Odom.
He is a jack of many trades.
And follows in the tradition of actors in the mold of Sidney Poitier, Jamie Foxx and others who can do it all in Hollywood.