FilmReview

The Exorcism: Russell Crowe has seldom been better than in this superior supernatural horror

Joshua John Miller’s imaginative film makes makes the inferior Exorcist: Believer reboot feel genuinely cursed

Russell Crowe in The Exorcism. Photograph: Fred Norris/Lightsavior Productions/LLC/Vertigo Releasing
The Exorcism
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Director: Joshua John Miller
Cert: 16
Genre: Horror
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Worthington, Chloe Bailey, Adam Goldberg, Adrian Pasdar, David Hyde Pierce
Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, released in 1973 to much acclaim, vomiting and fainting, is a film with much lore around it. Like Poltergeist, Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, the production was supposedly cursed. Over the years, various misfortunes and set mishaps have fed sensational headlines. A freak fire! Four deaths! A life-altering spinal injury!

The writer-director Joshua John Miller, the son of Jason Miller, who played the agonised Fr Karras, has revisited the folktales and legends for this imaginative supernatural horror. Russell Crowe, seldom better, is simultaneously bruising and bruised as the playfully named Anthony Miller, a washed-up actor who is cast in what looks like a remake of The Exorcist.

He’s attended by his recently expelled and estranged daughter, Lee (Ryan Simpkins), whom Anthony hires to help him learn his lines. Echoing The Exorcist’s many retakes, a snarling, perfectionist director (Adam Goldberg) works hard to undermine his fading star.

Alcohol abuse, childhood trauma and guilt eat away at Anthony, compounded by supernatural forces. It falls to Lee and the film’s religious adviser (an excellent David Hyde Pierce, looking uncannily like Friedkin’s religious adviser, Thomas Bermingham) to save the tormented actor’s soul.

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Working from a clever script cowritten by MA Fortin, Joshua John Miller uses the Stygian gloom of the genre and Michael Perry’s honeycombed production design to blur the lines between external drama and inner torment.

Like Godard’s Tout Va Bien, the (figuratively and literally) storied set can make the viewer feel like a voyeur. The pacing can be too stately, but an impressive ensemble working through a surfeit of good ideas compensates for the lack of jump scares.

It’s enough to make The Exorcist: Believer, the recent inferior reboot, feel genuinely cursed.

The Exorcism is in cinemas from Friday, June 21st

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic