The Exorcism Review

The Exorcism Review

PLOT: A troubled actor exhibits disruptive behavior while shooting a horror film. His estranged daughter wonders if he’s slipping back into his past addictions or if there’s something more sinister at play.

REVIEW: Just last year, we saw the release of The Pope’s Exorcist, and now, less than one year later, we’ve got Russell Crowe returning to the genre with a similar title. But outside of being about possession and starring Russell Crowe, these films could not be more different. Announced 5 years ago and even filmed before Pope’s Exorcist, The Exorcism was hit with delay after delay. That’s not often a great sign concerning a movie’s quality, but the June release seemed to show a little more faith in the product than expected. Unfortunately, the film fails to deliver anything outside of some decent performances.

The Exorcism follows Russell Crowe’s Anthony Miller, a struggling actor who recently booked a role in a horror movie after something tragic happened to the prior actor. He starts exhibiting strange behavior as it’s clear something much more sinister is going on. His daughter, Lee (Simpkins), is working as a production assistant on the film and is trying to repair her fractured relationship with her father. Saying Crowe is great in the role is a bit like saying water is wet; no matter the film, he always delivers. But the Tony character falls into the box of an alcoholic, neglectful dad and has a hard time getting out of it.

This is really Ryan Simpkins’ film, as her reactions to Tony’s behavior are where the true horror lies. Anyone who’s lived with an addict knows the pain of a relapse, and the viewer experiences Tony’s destructive behavior through his daughter. Using alcoholism to portray the possession was an interesting choice. Simpkins is able to say so much with so little, and it was easily my favorite part of the film. Chloe Bailey works well as the actor Lee knows from her past and is a bit of a love interest. I’d argue the character’s interactions are ultimately pointless, but it’s nice that not everything in Lee’s life is a mess.

David Hyde Pierce shows up in a fun role as a priest. He gets a bit of duality in his performance and really gets to go hard in the third act. If anything, I wanted more of him playing evil, even if his good-guy schtick also works incredibly well. Sam Worthington shows up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part that made me question why they even cast such a big actor for the role. And I’m absolutely flummoxed at Adam Goldberg’s Peter, the director. This character is such an asshole and spits such vitriol that I was shocked to see no real comeuppance for him. This is why very little of this works despite going into some dark places. If you’re going to set something up, you need to pay it off.

Given the writer/director’s relationship to the material, maybe the story’s point was lost along the way. There are times when logic exits the scene, and we’re just left with a sloppy narrative progression. Not much thought is put into the why, so the scenes feel very slapped together. I was shocked this came from the writing team of The Final Girls, given how tightly paced and genre-aware that script was. Instead, this is just teeming with cliches and lacking in any true scares. Hell, the jump scares in this one aren’t set up and are “cat jumps out of the closet” level of obnoxious.

Ryan Simpkins, David Hyde Pierce and Chloe Bailey in The Exorcism (2024).

It’s not all bad: I really enjoyed the sets, in particular the “dollhouse” which was the filming location for the film within a film. As a house cut in half, it provides a very interesting visual that evolves throughout the movie. But anytime you dig deeper into The Exorcism, it’s a very shallow experience. While I liked the performances, they exist within such one-dimensional characters. Lee’s focus on Blake takes the toll of what Tony is going through and its effect on Lee, and pushes it into less intense territory. If she has enough time to focus on love, then the horror going on around her can’t be all that bad.

I wouldn’t be shocked if people see an advertisement for another Crowe Exorcism film and buy tickets based on the merits of The Pope’s Exorcist. But that would be a massive mistake as the two films could not be more different. There’s no fun to be had here, and the subject matter is absolutely dour. From pedophilia within the church to intense alcoholism to an extremely toxic set, this is a rough viewing. And if those elements were handled with a bit more grace, this could have been a truly terrifying experience. Instead, it’s bad CGI, loud noises, and a demon that cares more about plot convenience than actual horror.


Check out my interview with the cast and filmmakers HERE!

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