Sunday, July 14, 2024

“THE EXORCISM”

THE STORY – When troubled actor Anthony Miller begins unraveling while on the set of his latest horror film, his daughter Lee questions if his past addictions or something darker is at play.

THE CAST – Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Worthington, Chloe Bailey, Adam Goldberg & David Hyde Pierce

THE TEAM – Joshua John Miller (Director/Writer) & M.A. Fortin (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 96 Minutes


There was a time when an exorcism on film meant something. What’s become a standard, overused horror movie trope was once so new and unfamiliar that the legendary 1973 original “The Exorcist” even makes a point to explain the concept of the then-ancient religious rite to the audience. Not so nowadays. It’s such a well-worn concept in horror films that they’re even recycling the same actors to play similar roles. Russell Crowe played a drinking, cursing, cool priest in last year’s “The Pope’s Exorcist.” Now, in the new film “The Exorcism,” he plays a drinking, cursing, but definitely uncool actor portraying a priest. And while his performance is better in this film (or at least based in reality, as opposed to his performance last year as an anthropomorphized devil horns emoji), “The Exorcism” is flat, overly morose, and worst of all, not scary.

Crowe’s character is Anthony “Tony” Miller, a down-on-his-luck actor attempting a comeback after a string of hardships, including a wife lost to cancer and a large portion of his life lost to alcoholism. Now, he’s given the chance to make a cinematic impression again when a juicy part falls into his lap. He’s cast as the titular role in a remake of William Friedkin’s masterpiece “The Exorcist” after the original actor falls victim to a mysterious accident. His daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins), who’s recently been kicked out of school, is hired as a PA on the film – a move pulled by Tony to give her life some much-needed structure. Once filming is underway, Tony struggles to focus on his performance, leading the provocateur director (Adam Goldberg) to use painful memories from Tony’s tumultuous past as motivation (clearly a nod to Friedkin’s notorious scare tactics during the making of his horror film). This technique starts to take its toll on Tony, and as he gets further worn down, it’s uncertain whether his deterioration is due to inner demons or actual ones that hail from hell itself.

The movie-within-a-movie concept is compelling and, at times, even makes a quiet statement on the futility of remakes and reboots to try to recapture what made an original film so indelible (and anyone who saw last year’s disastrous “The Exorcist: Believer” will undoubtedly agree with this assessment). The fake movie’s sets are less impressive, the makeup is cheesy, and what we hear of the writing is certainly less elegant than that of “The Exorcist.” Unfortunately, the creatives behind “The Exorcism” seem to have forgotten that the most effective artistic commentaries come from well-made art.

Like many scary movies of recent years, this one has all the trappings of a respectable, artistically minded film, including a stacked cast and a mature tone. However, the film leans too heavily on said tone to give itself gravitas that’s simply not found in the actual content. In place of thematic depth, the film is content to drape itself in a uniform color palette of gray upon gray, giving the mere appearance of a serious, contemplative cinematic experience. The only moments where it doesn’t look like a thin layer of wet cement was smeared upon the camera lens are during the scenes taking place in shadowed environments, which are so dark as to be practically, or actually, indiscernible. This tiring cinematographic technique is used by too many horror movies of recent memory, and here it’s at its worst.

Drowning the frame in darkness is often done in lesser films of this type to disguise or distract from a lack of scares, and “The Exorcism” is no exception. The brief instances of attempted horror come between long stretches of languid dialogue scenes, making them feel perfunctory instead of inspired. And rather than constructing anything actually scary, the film relies on a pattern of flickering lights and the typical sound effects that often accompany demonic scenes of this type – the expected snarls, growls, and loud bangs are all here, and they do nothing but, at best, make viewers instinctively jump in their seats.

Crowe brings a believable sadness that makes Tony appropriately pitiable. He doesn’t have many opportunities to do much else with the role. Still, the film is lucky to have a seasoned professional like him on board to occasionally fill in the gaps in the character writing. The rest of the cast is uniformly adequate, with only Simpkins getting occasional moments to shine, as she plays the only character with significant layers.

While “The Exorcism” deceives its audience into thinking it will be a well-constructed film with its admittedly impressively shot opening scene, all that follows is either cliché, dull, or both. Perhaps Hollywood needs to learn a lesson from its own films and hire a demon-chaser to rid itself of mediocre rip-offs of “The Exorcist.”

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Russell Crowe provides gravitas and appropriate sadness that make up for his flatly drawn character.

THE BAD - The film lacks scares, instead relying on a morose tone to give the mere impression of horror. The shooting style alternates between a tiringly uniform color scheme and indiscernibly dark scenes.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 3/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

101,150FollowersFollow
101,150FollowersFollow
9,315FansLike
9,315FansLike
4,686FollowersFollow
4,686FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Russell Crowe provides gravitas and appropriate sadness that make up for his flatly drawn character.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The film lacks scares, instead relying on a morose tone to give the mere impression of horror. The shooting style alternates between a tiringly uniform color scheme and indiscernibly dark scenes.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>3/10<br><br>"THE EXORCISM"