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‘The Exorcism’ (review)

If there is one sub-genre that has ruled horror in recent years, it is the religious horror.

New entries seem to find their way onto streaming services and cinema screens with ever-increasing frequency.

With 2024 already having had a number of occult horror successes with the likes of Exhuma, Immaculate, Late Night with the Devil, and The First Omen, Russell Crowe returns to star in another unholy vessel about exorcisms yet again with the aptly titled The Exorcism.

Though unrelated to last year’s The Pope’s Exorcist, the Aussie actor appears to have somewhat carved out a niche for himself by continuing to star in horrors that see Crowe entangled with Catholic exorcisms in one way or another.

With The Exorcism, the film also draws on the meta horror sub-genre.

Crowe portrays an actor looking to make a comeback after having fallen on hard times

Unfortunately demons from his past continue to haunt him in more ways than one, as he tries to navigate a second chance as both an actor as well as a parent to his estranged daughter.

It is made clear from the get-go that something beyond mere psychological terror is at work, as Crowe wrestles with his inner demons before becoming vulnerable to actual demons, however, neither the psychological nor the occult manages to engage whatsoever.

Where The Pope’s Exorcist managed to find a somewhat satisfying place in the mid level range of religious horror – which was easily better than the abomination that was fellow 2023 alum The Exorcist: Believer – unfortunately, The Exorcism does not even manage to be mediocre.

While the acting is not bad per se, the film is a decidedly dull and uncharismatic affair that meanders along in spite of its restrained 95-minute runtime, achieving the dubious accomplishment of both being too slow and not taking enough time to flesh out its narrative and characters.

As a result, the film fails to satisfyingly establish its world or its characters beyond tired tropes that leave them feeling bafflingly hollow and thereby impossible to invest in, just as the narrative is a flimsy excuse for a story, making it a particularly lazy regurgitation of better films.

The gore and scares are non-existent, as the film seeks to frighten its audience with poorly timed jumpscares and excessively loud noises that only manage to annoy rather than intimidate.

The themes of the film also feel tired and woefully underbaked, making the film guilty of being formulaic to a borderline offensive degree, as character arcs and motivations fall flat at best and are non-existent at worst, just as the concept of occult horror is only approached with superficial interest.

The Exorcism spent the last five years stuck in post-production purgatory, and for all intents and purposes, it should have stayed there, as the film is nothing more than another lackluster attempt at cashing in on the current religious horror fad without any regard for filmmaking or storytelling integrity, and I compel Hollywood to find other horror genres to invest in.

Verdict: 2 out of 10.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Kevin Williamson, Ben Fast, Bill Block
Written by M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Directed by Joshua John Miller
Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Worthington,
Chloe Bailey, Adam Goldberg, Adrian Pasdar, David Hyde Pierce

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