The Exorcism Review

Hey guys, do you know how weird it is that Russell Crowe is doing another Exorcism movie already? He just did The Pope’s Exorcist!

Yeah, I’m not going to be that guy and make too big of a deal out of that–admittedly striking–similarity between two of Crowe’s biggest recent releases. It’s strange, sure, but he takes the roles that he takes, and I’m sure he knew the talk would come. Plus, there are a lot of big differences between this movie and the last!

First of all, Crowe is not affecting anything more than a typical American accent! Between The Pope’s Exorcist, Thor: Love & Thunder, and the upcoming Kraven The Hunter, he’s making a neat little career out of doing silly voices for us, the viewing public. And I, for one, am most certainly here for that. A Russell Crowe that is clearly having fun and goofing around is a Russell Crowe I can cheer for. Regardless, there’s none of that to be found here.

Secondly, Crowe is not playing an exorcist in this latest outing. He is playing an actor PLAYING an exorcist. That’s, like, totally different. It’s a whole one (1) step removed!

And third… The movie takes place in America? And there is no Pope? And it doesn’t turn into a strange “What If The Exorcist Had An Action Movie Climax?” experiment at the end? Maybe I’m getting nitpicky here…

But yeah, there are totally differences, fellas. Nothing to worry about here. Totally different movies!

In The Exorcism, Crowe plays Anthony Miller, a washed-up actor in recovery for his drug and alcohol addictions. He’s a man trying to both make amends with his daughter Lee (played by Ryan Simpkins) and revive his career. He gets an opportunity at the latter when the movie opens with the first man to play Father Arlington in an upcoming demonic possession film mysteriously dies on set.

Miller flops during his audition for the role of Father Arlington, but he passionately persuades the director that he can command the role nonetheless. Even he is surprised when he is called and offered the job! And he brings Lee onto set as a production assistant so she can see him at work.

Of course, things start to go dark from there as a disturbing presence latches on to Anthony and won’t let go. As Anthony succumbs both to his own demons and this other very real one trying to take possession of him, it’s up to Lee and the on-set priest to try to banish the evil that’s coming for him!

TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS

+Ryan Simpkins as Anthony’s daughter does a fine job with her role, and she is easily the character the audience will attach to the most. Her struggles as the daughter to a parent with an addiction problem are tangible and real, and they make her a very sympathetic protagonist.

In a modern world where all horror movies seem to have to relate the threat on-screen to mental health in the real world, The Exorcism does the same, as Moloch, the demon attacking Anthony, is an allegory for both unresolved childhood trauma and addiction.

Personally, I’m a little run down on the theme of “The REAL monster is [fill-in mental health struggle here]”, but that said, I thought this movie did a decent job with it, tying Anthony’s addiction issues into how they affect Lee. She is constantly unaware of which version of her father she is going to get, and when she gets the worst of him, he says and does some downright abhorrent things. That’s what living with an addicted loved one is like! So the movie nailed that analogy.

+Adam Goldberg is a right douche as the director of the movie within the movie. To the point where you a few times might wonder if what Anthony hears him say is not what the character is actually saying, but a twisted interpretation from Moloch. He calls out Anthony several times, once reminding him of what a failure he is and that he left his wife to die alone, and another time to say that Anthony must have been raped when he was an altar boy.

It’s not the possession talking, though. The guy’s just as much of an asshole when we see him in scenes where Anthony is not around, and he is lambasting the actor for dragging down the film.

Goldberg does not have loads to do in The Exorcism, but he sure makes the most of his screentime and lines.

-Partway through the movie, Lee ends up in a relationship with her father’s co-star, Blake Holloway (played by Chloe Bailey). In a movie that extends just over ninety minutes, not nearly enough attention is paid to this relationship. We don’t really know what they see in each other or why, and we don’t know why they stay together when Holloway is an up-and-coming star and Lee’s dad is ruining her movie; they just get thrown together to have another human involved in Lee’s trauma with her dad.

It’s such a weird, tacked-on aspect of the movie, and the flick could have used another fifteen or twenty minutes to flesh them out as a couple and make me care if they make it through the strife together or not.

-The Exorcism relies heavily on jump scares for its horror, and that can always come off feeling like the cheapest way to get scares when they aren’t executed well, as they aren’t here. They can certainly get you at times and have their desired effect, but the movie keeps going back to the well on them, and it just felt like a lazy way to spook the audience.

Just off the top of my head, there are jump scares I referred to as “The mirror scene”, “The falling light scene”, “the sleepwalking scene”, and “the naked Russell Crowe scene”. And that’s just where I started and stopped keeping track of them all. The writers should have had more faith in their words than in just throwing sudden movement and loud noises at us.

OVERALL

All told, The Exorcism is basically just another generic demonic possession movie you’ve seen a dozen times or more. The theme of living with addiction is a heady one, and it’s handled well enough, but the rest of the affair is very by-the numbers and underwhelming. It’s the rare movie that could have stood to be a bit longer to flesh out some details and make us care more, but as it is, it just kind of sprints toward the finish line without much concern to detail.

★★ out of 5

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