The Exorcism is the second exorcism-themed movie starring Russell Crowe in the last two years, following 2023’s The Pope’s Exorcist. In both films, the main symptoms of demonic possession are 1) looking a bit more tired than usual, and 2) saying nasty things to the people who are trying to help you. We’ve all been there!


I don’t think that the original The Exorcist is especially scary, but it does build a definite sense of dread. The Exorcist III is pretty scary. I cannot think of another film centred on an exorcism which is really that effective as a horror movie, or takes the scenario in an interesting new direction. With its unbelievably generic title, The Exorcism is another boring entry in what has turned out to be a very boring lineage of movies.

Crowe plays Tony, a washed-up actor who takes on the role of an exorcist in a film after the last person to fill the part dies in mysterious, supernatural circumstances. The script lays it on a bit thick with Tony; he’s a recovering addict with mental health issues, his wife is dead – of course it was his fault—and his short-haired daughter (Ryan Simpkins) resents him. This guy is just aching to externalise all his guilt and anguish in a battle with some kind of demonic entity.

The film does play a little bit with the idea that it might all be in Tony’s head, but not seriously. It also does attempt to blur some of the lines between the movie production and his real life. This does create a slight atmosphere for the first third or so of the film, but it soon fades into a general sense of listlessness which pervades the remainder of the runtime. It all just feels quite humdrum. Flickering lights are relied on repeatedly throughout the movie to build suspense.

Crowe is fine at playing a schlubby actor, but when the script calls on him to leer and be menacing, he is in no way up to the job. Also – can these films stop recycling that one scene where the demon takes somebody over and forces them to make lewd comments to their family members? It kind of works in The Exorcist because it’s a child and it takes place in a much more straitlaced society. The idea that a demon nowadays would try to shock people with obscenity is pretty funny.


I just wonder why they keep churning out these movies. The Exorcist was made by a devout Catholic, with a real fear of damnation, and it depicted supernatural evil as sordid and juvenile rather than grandiose. That was a very innovative angle to take—but now, over fifty (!) years later, where is the interest? Honestly, on the scale of human degradation, vomiting green slime and swearing in a gruff voice feels incredibly tame. No more, please.


The Exorcism opens today in cinemas. 

3 / 10