20th Jun2024

‘The Exorcism’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, David Hyde Pierce, Chloe Bailey, Adam Goldberg, Adrian Pasdar | Written by Joshua John Miller, M.A. Fortin | Directed by Joshua John Miller

However you look at it, the fact that Russell Crowe has chosen to make two exorcist movies in as many years is a very strange decision. It’s like Jason Statham deciding to play another bee-keeper, or Glen Powell playing another hitman. Whatever the reasoning behind his decision, Crowe’s second exorcism movie, The Exorcism, is sadly disappointing, a murky, near-nonsensical effort with nothing to offer but jump scares.

In fairness, you can maybe see Crowe’s thinking when you take a closer look at the film’s pedigree. It’s directed by Joshua John Miller, the son of Jason Miller, who played Father Damien in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Similarly, rather than playing an actual exorcist, as he did in last year’s The Pope’s Exorcist, this time round Crowe is playing an actor who gets cast as an exorcist, so perhaps the meta aspect appealed to him, especially given Miller’s real-life perspective.

To that end, Crowe plays Anthony Miller, a washed-up actor who lands the central role in what is clearly meant to be a direct remake of The Exorcist (it’s called The Georgetown Project), after something nasty happens to the original actor (Adrian Pasdar) in the film’s prologue. He’s accompanied on set by his semi-estranged daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins). Still, their intended peace-making gets a little derailed when Anthony begins behaving strangely. The presence of a real-life priest (David Hyde Pierce) on set doesn’t help either, especially when it triggers dark memories from Anthony’s past.

There is, admittedly, a lot of tried-and-tested potential in the idea of an actor being subsumed into the religious role they’re playing and a better script could have had a lot of fun exploiting that premise. Unfortunately, The Exorcism is generic nonsense from start to finish, serving up precisely nothing of interest either in terms of Miller’s perspective or Crowe’s double-exorcist experience.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the film is poorly made on a number of levels. For starters, it looks awful – Simon Duggan’s cinematography aims for atmospheric darkness, but it’s so murky that it’s often hard to tell what’s going on and the film is positively starved for a hint of colour, even when the nasty bits start happening.

On top of that, there are a number of unintentionally laughable moments – Sam Worthington’s hilariously short screentime as a replacement actor, for example – and the script is full of stupid moments, not least the decision to include captions like “Day Eighteen of the Shoot”, which only underlines how ridiculous it is that no-one has shut down The Georgetown Project for multiple health and safety violations by that point.

It gets worse. At one point a character falls out of a window, several storeys high, and the fact that nothing happens to them is just casually brushed aside by the dialogue. And as for the jump scares, they’re just the usual SUDDEN LOUD NOISE followed by not very much happening on screen, rather than anything of any note.

As for the performances, Crowe and Simpkins are both fine, but they’re poorly served by The Exorcism‘s script, which fails to deliver either strong emotion or anything resembling actual scares. And in the case of David Hyde Pierce, the pleasure of seeing him in an actual movie again (his last film was in 2010) is quickly replaced by abject disappointment at how terrible the whole thing is, to the point where you feel bad for him.

In short, this is no fun whatsoever, thanks to a script that’s all over the place, flat direction and a lack of imagination, given the initial set-up. If you absolutely have to see Russell Crowe playing an exorcist in something, watch The Pope’s Exorcist instead.

* 1/5

The Exorcism is in UK cinemas from Friday, June 21st.

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