The Exorcism Ending, Explained: Is Tony Posessed?

Joshua John Miller’s film ‘The Exorcism’ equips a unique horror narrative by utilizing a Hollywood set as its backdrop where a crew is shooting a demonic movie. The protagonist, Anthony Miller, a washed-up actor and recovering addict, replaces the lead in the same movie after the previous actor meets an eerie end. However, as he helms the role of a priest investigating a demonic possession, his own reality begins to spiral out of control for the worse. As a result, his daughter, Lee, is forced to contemplate if her father has fallen off the wagon and returned to his old ways— or something much more sinister is afoot. The narrative retains a level of mystery surrounding the horror movie set and its predicament, and intrigue builds, engulfing Tony’s fate. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Exorcism Plot Synopsis

While the shooting for the film “The Georgetown Project” is underway, an accident kills the lead actor in the dead of the night while he rehearses his lines at the sound stage set. As a result, Anthony “Tony” Miller receives the chance of a lifetime, booking an audition after Director Peter scrambles for a replacement. Tony has been out of work for some time owing to a family tragedy that pushed him toward grave addiction. Therefore, now that he has cleaned up his act and is consciously working toward a better life, Peter’s movie promises great things for his dusty career. Although the audition is tumultuous, the actor ends up booking the gig due to the director’s pointed interest in his past trauma.

Coincidentally, Tony’s estranged daughter, Lee, finds herself back home from her convent boarding school around the same time due to a suspension. Even though acidic tension lingers between the duo, the father continues attempting to mend bridges with the kid. Therefore, he gets her a job on the set as the Production Assistant to involve her in his world. Due to this, Lee ends up befriending her father’s co-star, a younger singer/actor, Blake Holloway. As the shooting begins, Peter eagerly encourages Tony to tap into the trauma surrounding his addiction and childhood to portray the character authentically.

However, being surrounded by catholic imagery and pretending to be a Priest reopens old wounds in Tony’s mind from his awful experiences as an altar boy. As a result, the actor brings the shoot’s weight home as well, leading to uncanny instances, including his terrifying sleepwalking episode. One particular night, Lee returns home to find her father covered in scratches and blood, reeking of alcohol. Worse yet, in his inebriated state, Tony hurls abuses at his already shaken-up daughter. Nevertheless, once sober and back at work, he seems to have no recollection of his words.

Still recognizing his stressful state, Tony tries to convince Lee to return to school despite her reservations so that she can be safe. Lee, on the other hand, decides to consult Father Connor, the on-set priest consultant, about the predicament. Even though she shares an audio recording of her father speaking in Latin during one of his spells, Connor insists it must only be a result of stress. Nevertheless, his theory proves to be wrong on Tony’s eighteenth day on set. During the filming of a challenging exorcism scene, Peter makes callous comments about Tony’s experience with childhood abuse. Seemingly triggered by the same, Tony begins behaving erratically, as if possessed by a malevolent spirit.

The Exorcism Ending: Who is Possessing Tony?

At the story’s start, Tony is actively recovering from his past substance abuse, which led to the destruction of all aspects of his life— personal and professional. A few years ago, his wife received a terminal cancer diagnosis, which became the catalyst behind his problems with addiction. Consequently, he distanced himself from his dying wife and their young daughter, forever severing his bond with Lee. Likewise, while he had once been a promising actor, his state sunk his career’s potential. Eventually, Tony realized he must fix up his act and began his road to recovery.

Nevertheless, even though Tony is at a relatively stable point in his life at the narrative’s beginning, his past bridges remain burned down. For the same reason, he attempts to make things right with his daughter and hangs on to Peter’s horror film offer, recognizing it as the lifeboat for his career that it was. However, the project’s reality turns out to be a personal nightmare for the man. For one, the script revolves around a priest protagonist. As a kid, while Tony served as an altar boy, he faced sexual abuse by his church’s preacher. Consequently, the set’s environment, paired with the collared robes the actor himself had to don, forced him into a negative headspace.

Worse yet, the project’s director, Peter, remains incredibly insensitive about Tony’s past, constantly bringing up his wife’s death and his subsequent addiction. Furthermore, he also seems to think the actor’s experience with sexual misconduct in the church would allow him some insight into his character’s sins and freely vocalize the same. Thus, Tony remains in perpetual pressure since the film is a Hail Mary for his career. For the same reason, Lee is tempted to believe her father might have simply relapsed to explain his erratic behavior.

While Tony’s final breakdown on set heavily suggests demonic involvement, his later confrontation with Lee confirms it after the actor attacks his daughter before jumping off the window and somehow surviving. As such, after another consultation with Connor, Lee realizes that the demon Molech is possessing her father. Although she had previously assumed Molech to be a figment of Tony’s imagination, invoked during his Sleepwalking/Latin-speaking spells, the latter’s actions confirm the demon’s reality.

Why is Molech Haunting the Set?

Even though Molech finds an exceptional host in Tony— attaching himself to his trauma— the demon has been haunting The Georgetown Project’s film for some time now. The same remains evident in the death of the first lead actor. As it turns out, Peter’s movie centers itself around Molech, employing him as the demon haunting and possessing people as Father Arlington— Tony’s character in the project— hunts him down. Even though various people behind the film, such as Blake, take preventative measures to ensure the project’s subject matter doesn’t bleed into their realities, something must have gone wrong in the film’s making.

Either by constantly revoking Molech’s name or simply choosing him as the center for their narrative, Peter and his colleagues accidentally and unwittingly summoned the actual demon to their reality. Consequently, the demon continues halting the film’s production— first by killing the lead and then possessing his replacement, Tony. However, since Molech’s hold on his new host remains firm, he decides against assigning the actor the same fate as his predecessor. Instead, he utilizes Tony to kill Joe, the third actor Peter planned on casting as the lead for his project. As a result, Molech’s actions ultimately shut down the production as a whole, leaving the demon loose on the world in Tony’s body.

Does Lee Save Tony? How Do They Exorcise Molech?

After Lee’s brutal confrontation with her father, while he is entirely under Molech’s possession, the girl realizes the situation’s gravity. Throughout the film, Lee’s anger over Tony remains evident— most brazenly so in the way she refers to her father by his first name. The young teenager has an incredibly complicated relationship with her father and has spent most of her life away from him, either as a result of his abandonment or her enrollment in the boarding school. Even though her brief return home brings chances of reconciliation between the father-daughter duo, Tony’s possession ruins many opportune moments.

Nonetheless, in their time together, Lee has grown to see a different side of her father. Consequently, she wishes to rescue his soul from further damnation by banishing Molech from their lives. Thus, she recruits Blake and Connor’s help to get rid of the demon. Naturally, the trio find themselves at the same place where everything began: the film’s sound stage set. Although Connor traverses into the Cold Room alone to perform the exorcism, Lee and Blake eventually find themselves in the same room, facing Molech.

After the demon incapacitates Connor and Blake, he attempts to turn Lee on her father by reminding her of every awful thing Tony has done that has ruined her life. Even so, Lee refuses to give in and manages to get the momentary upper hand on him with the help of a cross. Meanwhile, Connor utilizes the moment for his benefit and offers himself up to Molech in exchange for Tony’s body in a show of grave sacrifice.

As a result, Tony becomes free of Molech’s control— and the demon takes over Connor’s body, perhaps stronger due to the priest’s consensual possession. As Tony returns to his reality, he’s forced to confront the reality of his past— particularly his childhood trauma. Even though Molech takes away the actor’s bible, preventing him from exorcising him with archaic prayers, Tony taps into his experiences as an altar boy and recites the prayers by memory. By doing so, he finds himself battling a demon in real life while simultaneously facing his inner demons.

In the end, with the power of his faith and belief— two things he had long left behind even before his addiction— Tony manages to exorcise Molech away and back into the demonic realm. Although they lose Father Connor in the process, the demon’s banishment succeeds. Years down the road, Tony remains steady in his path to sobriety and mends his relationship with Lee. For her part, Lee also manages to work through her trauma. Ultimately, Molech’s haunting remains a tragic part of the father-daughter duo’s life. Yet, it shapes them in inextricable ways.

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