Critics Have Seen The Exorcism Starring Russell Crowe, And The Are A Lot Of Mixed Feelings About The New Horror Movie

 Russell Crowe looking intensely with blood all over his face in 2024's The Exorcism movie.
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While Spooky Season is technically still a few months away, genre fans are getting a number of exciting scary movies this summer. The anticipated prequel A Quiet Place: Day One is arriving at the end of the month, and July and August include exciting upcoming horror films including the critically acclaimed Longlegs, MaXXXine, Cuckoo, Trap, and Alien: Romulus.  Arriving before any of those titles, however, is writer/director Joshua John Miller's The Exorcism, which is presently getting a notably mixed reaction from critics.

In the film (which has no relation to The Pope's Exorcist), Russell Crowe plays Anthony Miller – an actor who has signed on to star in a horror movie and finds himself slowly unraveling. While there is concern that there is substance abuse to blame for his behavior, the truth may actually be more in the supernatural realm. As you can probably tell, there is a bit of metatextuality at play here, but according to Emma Kiely from Collider, the comedic commentary and horror vibes don't properly play off of each other. She writes,

The first half runs on the steam of this meta-comedy, but it loses all speed when it tries to become a dense, dark, and heavy horror drama. Miller has proven he's a natural with satire and blending horror with comedy as seen in his script for 2015's The Final Girls. But around halfway through The Exorcism, it abandons everything it's been setting up to give way to formulaic and stale scare sequences.

Writing of FilmInk Australia, Dov Kornits doesn't express a whole lot of love for the work from Oscar-winner Russell Crowe. He says that there are a couple of "serviceable" scares in the movie," but there is a vibe from the star that it's not totally engaged with the material. The critics says,

Crowe, for his part, gives off the air of not wanting to be there. Even when he becomes fully consumed by Moloch, he simply growls a bit and literally stands around. Given his unhinged performance in, ahem, Unhinged, you know that Crowe is better than this.

Jennie Kermode of Eye For Film has a different take, and instead says that Russell Crowe is "in his element," and that the movie has him confronting some of his own on-set conflicts from the past. The critique also notes that Joshua John Miller is the son of Jason Miller a.k.a. Father Karras from William Friedkin's The Exorcist, and that history informs the filmmakers work:

As the son of Jason Miller, who played Father Karras in Friedkin’s film, the director grew up surrounded by Exorcist lore, and that reveals itself here through the multitude of little references which will delight fans but are well enough built into the structure of the piece to avoid becoming a distraction. The filming of the exorcism scenes themselves is a particular delight, recalling Friedkin’s insistence on doing it over and over again until it fit his vision, driving the actors crazy in the process.

Digital Media Talkies critic Pramit Chatterjee is also in the pro-The Exorcism camp, giving the film 3 1/2 stars out of five. The writer says that they went into the movie expecting it to be a comedy, but they were surprised to discover "a serious meditation on the evil that exists within churches."

Through its meta-storytelling, [co-writer M.A.] Fortin and Miller wonder how Christianity has been influenced by its portrayal in the realm of entertainment and whether or not that has led to the creation of something more sinister. They also go into the process of method acting and the auteur theory and aptly critique them because actors should draw from their past or real-life experiences only if they can separate the real from the reel and deliver a good performance.

Peter Gray of The AU Review agrees that there is some depth to the work, but that it doesn't land as a "cohesive production, despite its promising ingredients." It tries to do too much and fails to achieve what it attempts in the 93 minute runtime, according to Gray:

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.

Also starring Ryan Simpkins, Sam Worthington, Chloe Bailey, Adam Goldberg, and David Hyde Pierce, The Exorcism is arriving in theaters this Friday, June 21. To learn about all of the films set to arrive on the big screen and streaming in the months ahead, check our our 2024 Movie Release Calendar.