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The Exorcist: Believer’s carefully crafted demon was cut to keep the movie grounded

Director David Gordon Green wanted to stay ‘based in reality’

Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist: Believer wearing a white sweater and looking at someone across a table Image: Universal Pictures
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

The Exorcist: Believer doesn’t have much going on in terms of demons, but there is one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment with a giant demon that almost played a larger role in the movie.

The demon is called Lamashtu, and while it doesn’t get much of a shoutout in the movie itself, according to Believer’s special makeup effects head, Christopher Allen Nelson, it was one of the most intricate and complicated pieces of the entire production.

“You see [Lamashtu] very abstractly in the final exorcism,” Nelson explained. “But we did an entire head-to-toe prosthetic suit, harness, wings, horns, a full realization of Lamashtu which I’m very, very proud of and was very difficult. It was five and a half hours of makeup in, about an hour and a half makeup out, including a 12-hour shoot day.”

Ann Dowd in the The Exorcist: Believer holding up a cross and shouting in a dark room, with the very vague shadow of a winged figure silhouetted behind her
Lamashtu in the background in Believer’s trailer
Image: Blumhouse Pictures/Universal Pictures

While the movie doesn’t much get into Lamashtu’s whole deal, she would have been a fitting demon to see more of during the movie. In Sumerian mythology, Lamashtu was a female demon who harassed women during childbirth and attempted to steal their children — thematically fitting for Believer and its climactic exorcism.

Nelson said he and makeup effects co-designer Vincent Van Dyke created Lamashtu’s look for the movie, and called their final design “a beautiful piece of art.” He even tried to convince director David Gordon Green to put more of the demon in the movie.

“I tried to talk David into putting it in there,” Nelson said. “But you know, David knows the movie better than I do. And it works well within the context of the story we’re seeing. But I would have liked to have seen more of the demon.”

His general feeling about The Exorcist: Believer is that he would have made things a lot more extreme if he could.

“I would have liked to have gone more evil. But that’s just me,” said Nelson. “I like to go to the extreme. David’s really good at pulling me back and keeping me based in reality. Otherwise, I think it would have been maybe too otherworldly. I had lots of evil ideas. Maybe on the next one, we can have something a lot more evil.”

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