‘The Exorcism’ Review: Russell Crowe’s Latest Religious Romp is Hauntingly Bad

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The Exorcism (2024) © Miramax
The Exorcism (2024) © Miramax

If one Russell Crowe exorcism flick per a year wasn’t enough for you, rejoice, because now there are two!

★☆☆☆☆

Written and directed by Joshua John Miller, The Exorcism follows Anthony Miller (Russell Crowe), a struggling actor who has a fluctuating relationship with addictive substances. Upon being cast in a horror film, he attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins). Meanwhile, as the production progresses, it becomes all the more obvious that Miller’s set is haunted by something far more sinister than the cast and crew could ever imagine.

Something that The Exorcism does have in its favour is approaching an oversaturated market of exorcism-based horror flicks was a somewhat unique spin. The film follows not only an exorcism, but a sort of exorcism within an exorcism: Crowe becomes possessed whilst working on an exorcism movie on a haunted set. Although the idea becomes convoluted and nowhere near as interesting as it had the potential to be, the premise does stand out against recent films such as The Exorcist: Believer and The Pope’s Exorcist; you can catch Crowe exorcising his newfound passion for exorcisms for a second time in the latter.

The Exorcism (2024) © Miramax

The idea has legs, however The Exorcism flounders in its own conceit. The film establishes a haunted set, but decides to focus far more on Miller’s addiction and domestic issues, than his paranormal workplace. It is technically a horror film, but feels more comparable to a hour-and-a-half-long domestic bust-up that throws in some juicy profanity and back-snapping towards the end.

As for Miller’s relationship with his daughter, it becomes apparent very quickly how little substance the film’s leading characters actually have. Apart from his addiction sub-plot and her young adult unenthusiasm, the central paternal dynamic leaves little for audiences to care about. Although Miller makes attempts to reconcile his heart doesn’t seem at all in it, and Simpkins never strays far from convention with her troubled teen performance.

The Exorcism (2024) © Miramax

Another of The Exorcism’s unfortunate missteps is its mishandling of a fairly stunning set. When we enter the soundstage for Miller’s horror flick, we are greeted with a dollhouse-like setup, a sort of cross section of the domestic space where the camera can jump in and out of each room with ease—reminiscent of the dollhouse in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. Sadly, the film does not take advantage at all of this really interesting set piece, and instead favours predominantly intimate, enclosed scenes, devoid of the false exterior that was previously set up.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, The Exorcism is another loss for fans of Russell Crowe’s recent side quests. If we are to follow Albert Einstein’s definition of madness, it feels as though this maybe should be Crowe’s last exorcism-based feature for at least a little while. The film is fine, but almost aggressive in its ability to turn opportunity and creativity into something mundane. If your horror film isn’t scary, then what really is the point? Sadly, The Exorcism most likely won’t go down as a highlight of Crowe’s career, but a mere footnote of wasted opportunity that’s slightly embarrassing in hindsight.

Words by Jess Parker

The Exorcism is in cinemas now.


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