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‘Lumina’ Trailer – Alien Abduction Horror Movie Crash Lands in Theaters This July

There’s much more than meets the eye in The Exorcism, from writer/director Joshua John Miller and co-writer M.A. Fortin (The Final Girls). Or rather, there’s a lot bubbling beneath the surface in this possession horror story.

The Exorcism stars Russell Crowe (The Pope’s Exorcist) as troubled actor Anthony Miller, who begins to unravel after taking on a role in a supernatural horror movie. So much so that his estranged daughter (Ryan Simpkins) wonders if he’s slipping back into his past addictions or if art is imitating life in horrific ways. It’s also hard not to see The Exorcism imitating life, as Joshua John Miller’s father, Jason Miller, playing the doomed Father Karras in horror classic The Exorcist, which served as a significant source of inspiration behind the film.

Beyond the personal ties to The ExorcistJoshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin pulled from an ambitious well of real-life influences and inspirations when crafting The Exorcism, formerly titled The Georgetown Project. Possession horror becomes laden with metaphor as the life partners mined from personal experiences working in Hollywood, for better and worse.

The Exorcism faced a long road to release, having shot primarily in 2019 before pandemic-induced delays. It feels like a natural progression from the personal and meta-story driving The Final Girls, but what specifically was the impetus for this equally personal tale?

Joshua John Miller answers Bloody Disgusting’s first question with humor, “Well, we were thinking about this a lot. I think the impetus was the Trump election and that white straight men seemed to be possessed everywhere around us. We sort of got tired of seeing women as hysterical women being portrayed as being possessed. We thought, ‘Well, what if we actually did something about a guy that’s possessed who’s saved by two lesbians?’

Ryan Simpkins, Chloe Bailey, and David Hyde Pierce in The Exorcism

M.A. Fortin expands, “It was just like a car crash of things. It was like someone who had brought up exorcism movies and then the political climate and then really drilled down on the fact that most exorcism movies are pretty patriarchal by nature. I don’t know, somehow one day it was just like, ‘hey, what if?’”

“[We wanted to] subvert the expectations of the genre, Miller adds. “But it was definitely also obviously personal. There are personal elements, and I think Final Girls is very much, obviously, a love letter to my mom, and I think The Exorcist was a love letter, obviously to my dad, but also a FU letter to Hollywood a little bit, because we wanted to sort of tell a story that Hollywood men making movies in the studio system or working the studio system is a deal with the devil.

Hollywood Productions is often such a pressure cooker, and it seems sometimes it can really bring out the worst behavior in people, Fortin agrees. And you can meet a lot of wounded people here who may not necessarily be bad people, but…

“They’re possessed, Miller cracks.

“… but they’re inflicting, Fortin continues. “They don’t know how to handle their own trauma, so they don’t inflict more. I don’t know; a lot went into this pie.

“We’re life partners too, as well as writing partners and collaborating on the movie, on everything, Miller tells us. “We had a really traumatic experience that nearly destroyed us on every level prior to making this movie. The more I look back on this movie, I realize, ‘Oh, this movie is a lot about that experience.’ And feeling claustrophobic in that there was nowhere to go to talk to about it. It was pre-Me Too. It was just on the cusp, and there was nowhere to report anything. When you had no agency, and you feel like Ryan Simpkins in that room when Russell’s coming towards her and says, ‘Where are you going to go? Where are you going to go?

“I think that sense of entrapment and terror was how we felt a lot in certain rooms in the business.”

Russell Crower and Ryan Simpkins as father and daughter

The writers infuse their latest with their own trauma, using horror as a throughline to navigate it all. That was part of their plan from the start. Fortin reflects, “It’s interesting because the more we worked on the movie, the more it was like psychological horror or you could say family drama with horror elements, I don’t know. There’s all kinds of alphabet soup you can play with when it comes to this stuff because, for some reason, when it comes to genre, categorization is really, really important to some people. But it just felt like genre, I think, because we felt internally screaming from a lot of the factors that fed into what made The Exorcism, The Exorcism. I think there was never any contest. It was just like, well, yes, obviously this would be within playing in the genre sandbox.

I never thought of it as a possession movie or an exorcism in my head. I always thought I wanted to do John Cassavetes’ Opening Night as a horror title. That was sort of the actor goes batshit, Miller reflects. Yet, years of rejections over The Final Girls script taught them to withhold that as part of their pitch. Miller gives an example, “We did use to pitch Final Girls as Friday the 13th meets Terms of Endearment, and people would show us the door.”

Fortin confirms, “‘Here’s a bottle of water. Have a wonderful day. They validate your parking, and that’s it. I think another factor was just, it’s interesting because I don’t know that we set out for the movie to have any kind of real political bent, but looking back on it, thinking about it now. One of the things about just anything having to do with the exorcism movies is the veneration of all the Catholic Arcani. They’re the faith-based horror, the horror genre. I know horror and religion and faith and Catholicism specifically bring a lot of comfort to a lot of people, and I would never try to refute that. But it’s also a fully blunt instrument for the rest of us, especially now. I think for us, it felt at least quietly radical to have an exorcism movie that featured queer people.

While the writers are forthcoming in saying they didn’t set out to recreate The Exorcist through a queer lens, the inclusion did let them push the subgenre forward in daring ways. Particularly surrounding lead character Anthony Miller and his traumatic past with the Church. It gets so bold that it even shocked Miller to find a partner in Miramax.

Russell Crowe


I think that I was surprised how willing Miramax was to make this script, to be quite honest with you,” Miller admits.

“It is a sad movie, and partly why it’s sad is I think you make the things that you make come from you, from wherever you are at that moment in your life, the director continues. “And my mom tragically passed away right before the movie started shooting, which only added to the weird Exorcist myth. But that was such a tragic shock and so sad that I think it was just unavoidable that that immense grief was palpable in the movie.

“Ryan’s [character in the movie] is also dealing with the death of a mother and the fallout of unresolved grief. Russell’s character is dealing with unresolved trauma. We all have different grief traumas, and so I think there was just no way to escape that; the meta aspect of what had happened in our personal life. Not only was she my mother, but she was also [Fortin’s] mother-in-law, who was like a second mom. They were incredibly close. I think it’s too much to say this work of art is cathartic for us to deal with something. I think actually it was the opposite because it’s like we were looking so head-on to something that was recent.

While The Exorcism is clearly personal, that doesn’t mean the scares get sacrificed to the drama.

Miller sums it up, “To me, the horror is in the grief. The horror is in the violence, emotional violence that happens between the daughter and father. The trauma they both share. Obviously, what happened to Russell’s character as a kid. For me, the scariest movie I’ve seen in a long time was The Zone of Interest. To me, that was one of the most disturbing, upsetting, and terrifying things I had seen. I was nauseous for two hours, and all the horror was in your imagination, right?”

The Exorcism releases in theaters on June 21, 2024.

The Exorcism

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