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The Exorcist: Believer Ending Explained – Why It’s the Darkest in the Series

To be fair, the film’s director and co-writer, David Gordon Green, does not entirely see it that way. The sequence in question is intended to disturb and unsettle, as well as initially confound the audience. Indeed, the climax pivots on saving the lives and souls of two young girls, Katherine and Angela (Lidya Jewett), after they’ve been possessed by the same demon. And in an unsettling moment, the evil entity taunts their parents, Angela’s single father Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Katherine’s devout Born Again Christian parents, Miranda and Tony (Jennifer Nettles and Norbert Leo Butz).

In synchronicity, the demon speaks through both girls as it offers the parents a choice: one girl lives, and one girl dies. They get to choose which. It’s an impossibly evil situation that by design echoes the choice Victor faced at the beginning of the movie where his pregnant wife was injured during a Haitian earthquake. Back then, he was told he could save the life of his bride or his unborn daughter by a doctor. But as the demon mocks, “God played a trick on you.” Victor chose his wife, and Angela was still the only one who survived.

Now the moment comes again, and if the devils view Victor’s sorrow as a “trick,” it probably should’ve given everyone in the room pause. Nonetheless, uber-evangelical Tony turns out to have the weakest will and in a moment of despair announces, “I choose you Katherine.” But if you think God plays tricks, why would you trust the envoy of Satan?

“We explored so many different versions of this in the script form and even in production,” Green tells Den of Geek. “And then the idea of a choice became substantial. Which one was it going to be? And making a deal with the Devil became something that I found profound, and wanted to explore.”

Tony makes a cowardly, Faustian bargain to save the life of his child. Instead Angela returns from the seeming jaws of death, healed and renewed. Meanwhile Tony and Miranda’s own child fades away before their eyes, even as in a metaphysical realm (which resembles the watery canal where Katherine and Angela played with Wiccan rituals), little Katherine hears and sees the demon’s face before many monstrous hands gather round her head and pull her beneath the water—and down into the bowels of eternal torment.

For Green, this sequence was about balancing mixed emotions for the audience: “It didn’t feel honest to have such a clear cut happy ending where all is good, and it’s a sunshiny day. I wanted to infuse warmth and success, but also frustration and loss. I wanted the good guys to win, but the bad guys to get a few marks on the board, and make the audience have something that they walk away feeling. If that’s controversy, satisfaction, frustration, these are things that, as a filmmaker, I like. Those are the provocative qualities of conversation.”

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