The Exorcism: Fighting our Demons

Sometimes, the greatest demons we fight aren’t the ones of the spiritual realm.

In The Exorcism, Anthony Miller (Russell Crowe) is an actor who’s struggling to find work. When he finally lands a role in a supernatural horror film, he believes he may have found a role that can help him rebuild his career. When his estranged daughter, Lee (Ryan Simpkins) arrives, Anthony begins to show signs of the addition that drove his family apart. However, as Lee becomes increasingly suspicious about her father’s behaviour, she begins to unravel a sinister secret that threatens Anthony’s life—and the lives of those around him.

Directed by Joshua John Miller, The Exorcism makes use of all the tropes of the horror genre such as powerful demons, darkened hallways and jump scares, the film’s meta-approach keeps it feeling fresh (most of the time). By incorporating the film-within-a-film dynamic into the story, Miller manages to walk a fine line between indie drama and horror/thriller. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the film is produced by Kevin Williamson, the man who wrote the most meta of all horror franchises in Scream. After all, this is a story that knows we know all the rules and tries to pull back the camera as they develop.

For the most part, the film features some strong work from its cast. As Lee, Simpkins does a good job carrying the emotional weight of the story. David Hyde Pierce brings an interesting edge to his non-committal priest as he walks the line between faith and unbelief. Even Adam Goldberg seems to be having fun as the meticulous director that’s frustrated by Anthony’s empty performances. (Although Worthington is almost a ghost within the film himself with extremely limited screentime.)

But its Crowe’s work that the film is built upon. Although he has found himself in a number of demonic possession films in recent years, The Exorcism gives Crowe room to perform as the broken former star. Despite the over-the-top nature of the finale, Crowe brings a gravitas to the character that makes him feel more authentic. (In fact, it’s in the moments of the film that are less spiritually infused that Crowe is allowed to lean into his strengths.) For example, although he’s battling a spiritual force, Anthony’s greatest battle is within himself.

There’s a disconnect within Anthony’s soul. And he has no idea how to fill it. 

Having shattered his family as a result of his addictions, Anthony is desperate to prove to his daughter that he’s a changed man. He knows the damage that he’s caused and seems committed to working to repair it, even if it seems impossible. But his struggles go beyond his daughter. His past keeps him from connecting with a priest, even if he seems (mostly) genuine. His director demands that he tap into the hurts within his soul but Anthony is too afraid to look inside himself. 


To others, Anthony is simply irredeemable. Yet he still seeks forgiveness.

In this sense, Exorcism is a little more than a horror flick. Although the film doesn’t always work, Anthony’s journey toward (potential) redemption is interesting enough to keep the script on track. For him, the greatest Exorcism isn’t the demon that’s oppressing him. Instead, it’s the attempt to cleanse the inner demons that curse him that’s most important.

The Exorcism is available in theatres on Friday, June 21st, 2024. 

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