The Exorcism  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Joshua John Miller, US, 2024, 95 mins

Cast:  Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, David Hyde Pierce

Review by Carol Allen

This film has a most intriguing opening of a man walking through a house while reading a film script which describes an exorcist walking through a house until he finally gets to the bedroom, where we might expect to see the Linda Blair type possessed person – and the camera pulls back to reveal we are looking at a multi-storey film set with no fourth wall, like a doll’s house.  

Because this is a film about a film which is being made about an exorcism.   And playing the lead role of the exorcist priest is actor Anthony Miller (Russell Crowe).  Coincidentally Crowe starred in a film last year as The Pope’s Exorcist.   So is he getting type cast?   Not really.  This is a different type of role, and one in which he certainly holds the film together. 

Miller’s acting career is on the skids and has been for years.  A lapsed Catholic, as he confesses to his priest, he’s spent most of his life as a drug and alcohol addict, he abandoned his wife when she was dying of cancer and his last confession was forty years ago.   But he gets the chance of a comeback when he’s unexpectedly offered the lead in a film about an exorcist priest. 

Now on the wagon, he’s also trying to rebuild his  relationship with his daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins), whom he deserted along with her mother and who’s turned up at his apartment after being kicked out of school.  She is now hanging around the film set and hanging out with Tony’s co-star Blake (Chloe Bailey) in what appears to be a nascent lesbian relationship. 

Also on set is the film’s technical advisor on Satan type matters, priest-cum-psychiatrist Father Conor, played by a rather laid back and slightly creepy David Hyde Pierce.  

But as the film’s director (Adam Goldberg) tries to bully a performance out of Tony, that old demon drink starts taking over the actor and he begins to fall apart.  But is drink the only devil dominating him?

Crowe, older, craggier and sporting an untidy, greying beard, shows he’s still got what it takes to be a star.  He’s a strong screen presence, commanding our attention. And up until the devil takes hold, the story works well.  But with title like The Exorcism writer/director Joshua John Miller knows his  audience expects a bit of spectacular devilish possession or they’ll want their money back.   Shame really as the film then degenerates into the same old Satanic possession tosh, albeit with some spectacular special effects. 

But still worth seeing for Russell Crowe.