Review: The Exorcism

‘The Exorcism’ sees Russel Crowe return to battle evil in a film whose intriguing meta concept is hampered by an inconsistent tone and poor quality of scares.

The movie however, has an undeniably devilish plot with so much potential.

It follows production on the set of a fictional remake of the classic ‘Exorcist’ movie. They don’t name it as such, but its more than insinuated, right down to the film referencing the odd occurrences which hampered the set and cast original 1973 classic.

Following the unexpected death of the preferred lead, the roll of the exorcist falls into the path of a washed-up actor (Crowe). Tormented by the death of his wife, past abuse at the hands of the church and his struggling relationship with his estranged daughter he is cast on the thinking that a man so openly tormented would bring an authenticity to the role.

Things start ok, but it’s not long before things get a little too authentic as the actor’s performances become method plus, with a demon Moloch making an unwanted cameo and fucking everyones afternoon up.

There’s perhaps a little more to the movie than what I’ve stated above but the film is honestly so inconsistent with its delivery that I’d struggle to break it down further.

Key events basically go from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye and then kind of just ends. Whatever nuances or sub-plots the movie throws in here and there come and go without ever really reaching a notable conclusion.

As I’ve stated already, the film’s concept has so much potential, made even more appropriate with director Joshua John Miller being the son of Jason Miller who played father Karras in the 1973 classic. The DNA is certainly there; however, whatever ingenuity exists in the meta concepts of the films plot, are sorely lacking in the scares department.

I found the movie to be perfectly entertaining however, just not all that scary. The film’s overall tone is pretty dark, with some brutal dialogue delivered to Crowe’s character in order to get him to perform, however for some reason, once the demon show up things just go exorcism 101 and everything presented has been done before in far more grisly a fashion.

Considering the bombastic set pieces of Crowe’s other exorcism movie, ‘The Popes Exorcist’, ‘The Exorcism’ comes in somewhat stripped back and somewhat uninspired. There are some cool effects, and the somewhat staple ‘contortion’ scene is certainly grim enough, but beyond that, there’s some modular voices and some un-PC utterances and a lot of loud scenes, but nothing that really tips the scales.

I understand that the spectre of COVID-19 loomed long over the films production – ironic really that a film about making a film about a film with a troubled production should in turn experience similar issues, but I think it explains the inconsistencies in the films structure and overall flow.

Still, doesn’t change what’s presented though.

The film does cover quite a lot of ground, and needless to say Crowe’s performance is solid enough, but whilst his characterisation starts strong, the same can’t be said for the other members of the cast; in particular his daughter and perhaps more importantly the catholic priest advisor both who are pivotal to the films plot and ultimate conclusion, but never really seem to fit into the films plot other than to service exposition.

There is, however, an interesting theme running through the film. The actor certainly has the devil on his back with his past and ongoing battles with addiction, and so there is a hint, a mere wiff, that his actions in the name of Moloch are simply an extension of his own personal demons…

However, there’s so little build up before things go cliché demonic, that you aren’t even given a change to ponder what if for long at all.

Shame really.

Overall ‘The Exorcism’ is more than watchable, and its perfectly entertaining, but it had the potential to be so much more. I also feel that relying solely on established possession set pieces is just not going to cut it given the breadth of imagination seen in modern horrors. That said, Crowe seems to have found something of a niche as a soldier of God, be interesting to see if this trend continues.  

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