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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 July 2024

The Exorcism stumbles despite a fine act by Russell Crowe and an exciting premise

The supernatural horror film directed by Joshua John Miller features Ryan Simpkins, Chloe Bailey and David Hyde Pierce in key roles

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 25.06.24, 04:55 PM
Russell Crowe in The Exorcism.

Russell Crowe in The Exorcism. IMDb

When one hears ‘exorcism’ in the context of cinema, many of us immediately think of the 1973 cult classic The Exorcist. In a pleasant coincidence, The Exorcism is directed by Joshua John Miller, the son of Jason Miller who played Father Karras in the 1973 movie.

A little over a year after his role in The Pope’s Exorcist, Russell Crowe returns to a horror film in a cassock. This time, he plays a washed-up actor whose career is spiralling from alcohol and drug use and repeated rehab stints.

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The Exorcism opens with a bang, with a death on the set of a horror movie titled The Georgetown Project (a clear nod to The Exorcist; Georgetown is where the 1973 film was shot). This sets the stage for the entry of Anthony Miller (Russell Crowe), an ageing actor with a troubled past that becomes increasingly relevant as bizarre occurrences plague both the set and Miller himself.

Miller’s estranged daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins) joins him on the set after being suspended from her Christian college for organising a gay protest. Soon, bits of Anthony’s past begin to tumble out, such as a childhood sexual abuse incident that continues to haunt him. His struggles intensify on the film set, blurring the lines between reality and the film-within-the-film’s dark themes.

Lee gets worried when Miller’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic; she finds an ally in Blake (Chloe Bailey), one of Miller’s co-stars. Along with Blake, Lee asks help from a priest (played by David Hyde Pierce) who specialises in exorcisms.

The film-within-the-film’s shoot takes a terrifying turn when the set becomes a battleground for good and evil. A crew member dies and Miller tries to kill his daughter as a sacrifice to the dark force lurking on the set. Determined to save her father, Lee faces the demon with the help of the priest and Blake.

Crowe plays Miller with a rawness and vulnerability that makes the character’s descent into paranoia and terror quite unsettling. Lee serves as both an emotional anchor and a witness to her father’s unravelling, and Simpkins holds her own opposite the veteran actor with her mix of concern and resolve.

Director Joshua John Miller’s vision is ambitious but the film falters in its pacing. While some scenes drag, some others feel rushed. The Exorcism juggles several themes — the blurred lines between reality and performance, the trauma of past abuse, and the nature of faith — but none of these has been developed to the extent to take you on a roller-coaster. The horror elements themselves are a mixed bag. The Exorcism relies heavily on jump scares, and the special effects are not impactful enough to elevate the experience.

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