The Exorcism is perhaps one of those movies that wouldn’t have most cinema goers even bat an eyelid about it if it weren’t for the calibre of its cast and of course the atmosphere that one of those stars means the film is surrounded by.

What do I mean by that? Well if you are a regular cinema goer you will have perhaps seen a film last year called The Pope’s Exorcist – in which the legendary Russell Crowe plays a priest who is an expert in exorcisms. Now in The Exorcism Crowe plays an actor who crosses the supernatural when he takes on the role of an exorcism performing priest in a film – this could well be a moment of life imitating art.

Then there is another very interesting anomality with this film – the director Joshua John Miller (The Mao Game) is the son of actor Jason Miller who portrayed Father Damien Karnas in 1973’s The Exorcist – the film that times it feels like the fictitious crew in this film are re-making.

Plotwise The Exorcism sees Crow (Gladiator) play Anthony Miller a once top actor whose life and career hit an obstacle when after his wife’s death he turned to alcohol and drugs. But now his life is looking up as he tries to mend the relationship with his estranged daughter, Lee (Ryan Simpkins – Brigsby Bear), and has just been offered a role in a brand new horror film by Peter (Adam Goldberg – Saving Private Ryan).

However, things seem to be not right with the film. First of all the original leading man died and small things keep happening on set. Once Anthony takes on the role his mood and persona change as well and for awhile Lee is worried that he has reverted back to his vices – however with the help of Father Conor (David Hyde Pierce – Frasier) they soon begin to realise that perhaps something more supernatural is occurring.

With the atmosphere, myths and pedigree surrounding The Exorcism this could have been something special however the film never really lives up to what is promised early on. The film is at its best when it focuses on the family dynamic between Anthony and Lee and even delves into some interesting themes as it explores the fact that Anthony is a survivor of the Catholic Church’s sexual misconduct towards alter boys. The problem is though that the film just doesn’t delve deep enough.

It feels like Miller and co-screenwriter M.A. Fortin (The Final Girls) set this film up with themes and plot lines that are going to be brilliant – such as Lee believing that he Dad has once again turned to alcohol and drugs when in fact something more sinister is happening – but then let that idea fall to the wayside without ever fully exploring them. That results in the film feeling like a wasted opportunity.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that the film’s possession and exorcism scenes are nothing new or different. With so many exorcism films out there these days  every filmmaker that tackles one should be thinking about how to make their film different to any of that have been made in the past. That certainly doesn’t happen here as Miller delivers scenes that could be best described as stereo-typical.

One of the saving graces of The Exorcism though is the performance of Crowe. The amazing Australian actor doesn’t seem to mind that he has been given a fairly ordinary script to work with and instead he delivers a strong performance that is a stark reminder of what he a great actor he can be. There are faults with The Exorcism that drags this film down but Crowe’s performance certainly isn’t one of them.

The other bright light here is the performance of Ryan Simpkins. She excels in the scenes that she shares with Crowe and it is sad that her scenes with Chloe Bailey (Last Holiday) aren’t expanded on more throughout the film.

The Exorcism never really becomes the film that it should have thanks to a pretty mediocre screenplay. The one thing that does save it though is the performance of Russell Crowe who seems to get better and better as the film delves into its more darker themes.

2.5/5 Stars