Saturday 6 July 2024

Horror Film Review: The Exorcism (2024) ★★★☆☆

The 1973 film The Exorcist is the quintessential demonic possession film, so entrenched in horror culture that it renders all other films on the subject redundant. Who better than to explore this concept than Joshua John Miller, whose father played Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist? Miller confronts the legend in his directorial debut The Exorcism, a film about an ill-fated remake, a traumatised actor, and the wrecking ball effect on families of alcoholics.

The Exorcism (2024) banner

Anthony Miller (Russell Crowe) is attempting to put the pieces of his life back together. A survivor of childhood abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church, he descended into alcoholism and philandering during his wife's illness and subsequent death. His daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins, Fear Street) has just been sent home from school. When Anthony gets a role as a priest on a remake of The Exorcist, he employs Lee as his PA and the two head off to set together.

Tensions are high from the outset, with the film's director Peter (Adam Goldberg) determined to tap into Anthony's guilt and trauma. Child abuse is a life sentence and now Anthony is forced to step into the shoes of his perpetrators, becoming one with those that brutalised him and others when they were children.

Adding to his woes is the presence on set of consultant priest Father Conor (David Hyde Pierce), his very collar triggering Anthony and dredging up memories of his past.

With all that is going on in his life, and with his reputation preceding him, the cast, crew and those closest to Anthony are blinded to the dark undercurrent of evil that is permeating the film set.

Is this just another ride on the rollercoaster that is life with an alcoholic or is something else at play here?

It's a bit of both really.

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

The Exorcism is a very ambitious film, filled with some big name actors, including cameos from Sam Worthington and Adrian Pasdar. Indeed, there was some inspired casting in the film, notably David Hyde Pierce who needs to be in more horror films.

Throughout the film, we get a fascinating insight into life on a film set, how it looks and how the stages fit together, but this ultimately detracts from the rest of the film. Perhaps the issue with this film-about-a-film is that the viewer can't help but be aware that they are viewing the film through the literal and figurative lens of a film camera.

I genuinely wish I could have rated this film higher but somehow the pieces of The Exorcism don't quite fit together to make a harmonious whole. I can see what the director was trying to do, that the film was intended to be an allegory for the trauma of childhood abuse and the journey into alcoholism, but ultimately it required too much work for the viewer to put together the pieces.

Russell Crowe in The Exorcism (2024)
I give The Exorcism a good three out of five stars. This film was a bit hit and miss but I'll be interested to see what director Joshua John Miller does in future and whether he can achieve that heady mix of horror and drama that he seemed to be aiming for here.

The Exorcism is currently in cinemas.

Trailer: The Exorcism (2024)


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