The Exorcism (2024)

Director: Joshua John Miller

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Worthington, Chloe Bailey, Adam Goldberg, David Hyde Pierce

With his only directorial credit being 1999's The Mao Game, Joshua John Miller returns to the director's chair after 15-years for The Exorcism. The story opens with an actor (played by Miller's Near Dark co-star, Adrian Pasdar) preparing for a horror role by reading the script on the film's set. His play-by-play recounting takes viewers through the expected beats of an exorcism film, although the actor's preparation cannot protect him from meeting his demise.

After these tragic circumstances, Tony Miller (Russell Crowe) steps into the lead role of an exorcist for The Georgetown Project (which was also this feature's original title.) After going through rehab and trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Lee (Ryan Simpkins), Tony hopes that this role will be a step in the right direction. His time on-set unravels the actor, leaving Lee to wonder if he is slipping back into past addictions or if something more sinister is at play.

While the title and poster bring to mind Crowe's 2023 hit, The Pope's Exorcist, filming on The Exorcism actually occurred years earlier in 2019. Delays unfolded due to the pandemic, leaving the film in post-production limbo until it was finally finished this year. For anybody swayed by the marketing to expect something as fun and pulpy as The Pope's Exorcist, prepare for disappointment. Miller's feature is a more somber tale that feels inspired by real-life instances, particularly when the writer/director's father was Jason Miller, who played Father Damien Karras in the 1973 classic, The Exorcist

Front and center is Crowe, who effectively brings a vulnerability to the actor faced with his much publicized past sins. As filming results in him recalling traumatic memories and confronting regretful actions, Tony is left wondering whether he is worthy of forgiveness. He wishes to repair things with his daughter, regardless of how long it takes, but is troubled by the weight of what he did and what he experienced.

As filming gets underway and circumstances grow spooky, an unnerving sense lingers throughout courtesy of an effective handling on tone and mood. One wishes these instances did not leave viewers at the mercy of cheap jump scares, as these dull otherwise well-done sequences. In a way, this accurately reflects the film in how the end result can undermine an otherwise effective build-up.

This is seen in some themes, such as how the blurring between fiction and reality comments on the perils of method acting, yet that struggles to amount to much. This is also true of how the film points out tropes of exorcism films before embracing them, as though somebody intended for a subversive angle only to throw in the expected beats after a feeling of uncertainty. Did the lengthy delays to the film result in the project changing beyond its original intentions? That would explain confessional booth set scenes which crowbar in exposition, or why the third-act feels taken from a notably different film. Regardless of this theorising, The Exorcism is an interesting idea that unfortunately loses its way.

The Exorcism is available in UK cinemas now