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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Exorcism (MA) - 95 minutes

 A former star actor with a dark past tries to make a comeback in a supernatural horror film involving an exorcism, exposing his demons.

 

Russell Crowe plays that man. He is Anthony Miller, who is cast as Father Arlington in the film.

 

Miller was an altar boy who was molested. His wife became very ill with cancer and died. He took to drink and drugs.

 

He has an uneasy relationship with his 16-year-old daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins) who was expelled from school and calls her father "Tony", much to his chagrin.

Miller has managed to reverse her expulsion into a suspension.

 

But, as she isn’t due to resume school until the following semester, when he is cast in the horror movie, she becomes his personal assistant.

 

Miller struggles with the role.

 

He can’t remember his lines.

 

He doesn’t invest his inner being into the character, causing angst to the director Peter (Adam Goldberg), who took a big risk in casting him.

 

Peter is seeking authenticity and implores Miller to confront past traumas in realising Father Arlington, hastening Miller’s decline.

Miller goes back to the bottle, gets off his meds, sleepwalks and has blackouts.

 

Meanwhile, his daughter – a budding scriptwriter – strikes up a relationship with Blake Holloway (Chloe Bailey).

 

Holloway is the young female actor cast as the person possessed in the film being made.

 

Lee is beside herself watching her father’s descent.

 

She eventually turns to a consultant priest on the movie, Father George Conor (David Hyde Pierce) – who is also a clinical psychologist – for help.

As chaos reigns, the only answer is to perform an exorcism on Anthony Miller.

 

Director Joshua John Miller wrote the script for The Exorcism alongside M.A. Fortin.

 

The film’s origins stem from the mother of all horror movies, The Exorcist (1973).

 

As a child, Josh Miller watched his dad, Jason as doomed Father Damien Karras, fling himself out a window in that film’s climax.


Further, Jason never shied away from telling Josh how “cursed” The Exorcist was, outlining the litany of disaster that accompanied the picture.

The filmmakers has employed all the tools of the trade – darkness, flickering lights, creepy sounds, religious objects et al – in bringing the subject to life anew.

 

Throughout, Anthony Miller is plagued by visions of his past.

 

I appreciated the first two thirds of the film more than the run home, when matters really got out of hand for the protagonists.

 

I thought the set up was strong and the acting solid.

 

With that superb timbre in his voice, Russell Crowe is credible as the angst riddled centrepiece, a bundle of contradictions, with much repenting to do.

 

Ryan Simpkins is a dab hand in establishing the awkward relationship between daughter and father. I thought the push and pull in her persona was one of the movie’s highlights.

Chloe Bailey adds another layer, playing a character with her own issues.

 

Sam Worthington is underutilised as another actor cast in The Exorcism, who has an enduring regard for the lead.

 

So, the building blocks leading to Anthony Miller’s downfall were well realised, but I wasn’t sold on the exorcism.

 

Perhaps, I have seen too many films about exorcisms and it all seems a bit twee to me by now.

 

Often, I am wanting to yell out poppycock and fiddle faddle, but I just didn’t really buy it here.

 

The difficulty with all filmmakers tackling this subject is how to maintain believability. Those associated with The Exorcism are no different.

The high-water mark was set with The Exorcist and everything else appears shaded as a result.

 

Still, I don’t want to suggest there is not much to enjoy about The Exorcism.

 

Relationships are well established and the plot has its fair share of intrigue and jump scares.

 

It also loved the meta nature of what is going on in The Exorcism.

 

Rated MA, it scores a 6½ out of 10.

 

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