Film Review: The Exorcism compromises its dramatic intentions with shoehorned horror elements

Whilst it’s understandable that audiences may assume The Exorcism is somehow related to last year’s The Pope’s Exorcist – and given both their closeness in title and sharing of Russell Crowe, you can see why – but Joshua John Miller‘s genre entrant is more a dramatic character study, with many of the horrific elements feeling a little shoehorned for the benefit of mainstream audiences needing a scare to keep them invested.

The Exorcist, arguably the most infamous title of this subsect of the genre, is coursing through the veins of this film, but it isn’t merely Miller heavily referencing for the sake of it.  Jason Miller, the actor who played Father Karras in William Friedkin’s classic, was Joshua’s father, and it’s that personal connection that allows the film to earn a deeper emotional resonance than may be expected.  That being said, the more dramatic tale that this film seemed to start as and the uninspired, “jump scare” reliant horror effort it ultimately is means The Exorcism never quite lands as a cohesive production, despite its promising ingredients.

Crowe leads the charge with expected gruff intensity as Anthony Miller, an actor whose alcoholic reputation can’t help but precede him nowadays.  He hopes that his latest acting role in a new horror feature may be the proof the industry needs that he can be a reliable presence, but when he’s only cast off the back of the previous actor’s suspicious on-set suicide, he’s right to have his doubts.  He’s also balancing this new gig and his alcoholic tendencies with the arrival of his headstrong daughter, Lee (Ryan Simpkins), who has been recently expelled from her school.

Once on set, as to be expected, things go bump in the night – and the daylight – leading Lee and the on-set consultant, Father Conor (David Hyde Pierce), to conclude that a very real demon is meddling in their fabric and Anthony’s soul is the target.  It’s an entertaining angle for Miller to take, and Anthony battling his own metaphorical demons with his addiction adds a layer of dramatic desperation to the scenario, as well as painting him as an unreliable narrator, but, again, the film unable to commit to a cohesive blend of its genres means it essentially undoes its dramatic potential with cheap scares that never go beyond expectation.

The two stories that are competing for air time separately make for intriguing narratives.  The alcoholic actor facing his addiction and the possession of a horror film set, but with a scant 93 minute running time and the sense of external interruption that compromised Miller’s original, more personal, reflective vision (originally titled The Georgetown Project), The Exorcism ultimately exorcises its own balance.

Plus, not an oversized-Crowe-dwarfing-a-vespa image in sight, and that might be the biggest sin of all.


The Exorcism is now screening in Australian theatres.  It is scheduled to be released in theatres in the United States from June 21st, 2024.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.