The Exorcism (2024) – Film Review

The Exorcism Film Review

Director: Joshua John Miller
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, David Hyde Pierce
Certificate: 15

By Roger Crow

In the interests of transparency, I’m not related to Russell Crowe, though Oliver Stone once asked if I was. I wish.

Years before he became a megastar with LA Confidential and Gladiator, I’d seen his potential with a great 1991 movie called Proof. By the time he made Romper Stomper a few years later, Hollywood came calling, and things were never the same again.

In recent years he’s made some interesting choices, not least 2023 thriller The Pope’s Exorcist, which sounded like a spoof but wasn’t. And now we have The Exorcism, which sounds like a meta-analysis of that film, and isn’t, but who better to play an actor playing a priest investigating a demonic force?

The Exorcism Film Review

“A demonic force”

It sets its stall out early with an impressive multi-layered set in a film studio; the sort of cut-away set that Wes Anderson might use for one of his movies. This film within a film is called ‘The Georgetown Project’, and when an actor dies on that set in mysterious circumstances, apparently killed IRL by a demonic force, it begs two questions: why, and who will take on his part?

Cut to our Russell as Anthony Miller, a troubled thespian with a daughter who has little faith in him, but when he lands a chance at this part, he grabs it with both hands.

The audition doesn’t go as well as hoped, but the director spots something in Miller and gives him a chance to prove himself, which of course he does.

As our man begins to unravel while shooting the film, his estranged daughter wonders if he’s slipping back into his past addictions or if there’s something more sinister at play.

Throughout the movie I’m reminded of a West End stage version of The Exorcist I saw in 2017, and that feeling of dread that seeped onto the stage. The shadow of that iconic horror story looms large over every demonic possession exploitation movie that followed, so it’s testament to how good Russell is that he sells what could have been another humdrum thriller.

The Exorcism Film Review

“A depth he deserves”

Miller has so many demons, not least his alcoholism and the fact he’s a victim of abuse, that there’s little wonder a lesser thesp might have had trouble carrying the weight of those issues. Crowe gives Miller a depth he deserves.

And great to see Frasier veteran David Hyde Pierce as Father Conor, the consultant who advises Miller. Obviously, DHP sold just about every scene for laughs in that classic sitcom, so good to see he gets a chance to flex his acting muscles with this latest project.

Scream veteran Kevin Williamson was one of the producers, and there is a feeling at times that this is one big in-joke for fans of The Exorcist, and also The Pope’s Exorcist. The trouble with in-jokes is they can be like snakes eating their own tail, but obviously a new generation of horror fans will come to this fresh, and no doubt get a lot from it. Well worth a look for Russell alone, but he’s sold short by some overly derivative material.

The Exorcism is in cinemas now

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