The Exorcism

It is a tragic circumstance which offers a slim chance of redemption for has-been actor Anthony Miller, out of favour with audiences and producers after a four year binge of drink and drugs while his late wife fought cancer; now, following the sudden death of the lead of The Georgetown Project and against the explicit wishes of the studio he has been approached by the abrasive director to read for the part of the reluctant priest asked to perform an exorcism.

Struggling with the audition for the priest called upon by a desperate mother who believes her daughter is possessed by demon Moloch, neither Miller nor the equally troubled character of Father Arlington have faith in their abilities, his understandably bitter daughter Lee trying to help him through the process despite her own misgivings, but on the soundstage the atmosphere turns confrontational even before the troubling occurrences which hold up filming further.

With the two icons of religious horror films which dominated the seventies having received unnecessary recent revisitations from their original studios in the form of Exorcist: Believer and The First Omen, it seems further pointless that another studio should also specifically revisit the production of the former with The Exorcism, another peculiarity being that it is directed and co-written by The Final Girls’ Joshua John Miller, son of Jason Miller who starred as Father Damien Karras and who gives tormented actor Anthony Miller his name.

Played with convincing bleary-eyed desperation by Russell Crowe who last year served as The Pope’s Exorcist, what might be an exploration of the complicated production of a major horror film shot within what is clearly intended to be a full-size recreation of Chris and Regan MacNeil’s Georgetown home cut open as if for an autopsy, complete with a duplicate bedroom in the “cold room” for the grand finale, instead ignominiously crashes down as though expelled from heaven.

The actor and the priest similar in that both must believe absolutely and unshakably, drama might have been found in the challenges of a near-broken man taking a demanding role in a notoriously unforgiving industry as demonstrated by Adam Goldberg’s badgering and belittling director Peter, but all that The Exorcism summons has been seen before many times and even had the shoot of late 2019 not been cursed by plague and the film released on schedule it would still have felt Medieval paralleling mental illness and possession.

Miller averse to lighting scenes other than with broken neon tubes which recall the flickering monstrosity that was Mathieu Kassovitz’ Gothika, while one of the better things is David Hyde Pierce’s kindly Father Conor who acts first as consultant then counsellor then finally exorcist when things inevitably unravel, a qualified electrician might have been of more use, but with a late pivot from psychological to full-on overblown horror The Exorcism borders on pantomime, the ensuing unintentional hilarity a killing blow from which there is no recovery.

The Exorcism will be on general release from Friday 21st June

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