When you buy a ticket for a movie like “The Pope’s Exorcist” it’s pretty clear what you’re getting into. There’s a ton of Catholic imagery like the rosary, crucifixes, holy water, church rituals, and lots of prayers, all used to fight off the demonic possession of an innocent. All of the standard elements are present here, but director Julius Avery‘s film surprisingly offers a refreshing (if somewhat routine) take on the religious horror subgenre.
Elevated by a well thought-out story and an engaging performance from Russell Crowe, the film tells the story of Father Gabriele Amorth (Crowe), Chief Exorcist of the Vatican (and one of the most controversial figures in the Church’s modern era). The script is inspired by the Father’s actual files of his time spent conducting exorcisms for the Catholic Church, which is enough to make your skin crawl.
The movie follows Father Amorth as he travels to Spain to investigate a young boy’s (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) possession by a powerful demon. Aided by local priest Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto), Father Amorth tries to help the child before it’s too late. In the process, he uncovers a centuries-old conspiracy that the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
It’s a really great story, and one that feels more plausible than other religious horror fantasies about supernatural possessions. (You know what I mean). There are solid scares, bloody violence, and creepy imagery that are all done quite well. It’s slightly goofy but played with sincerity, which is why the film never teeters on the edge of camp. This isn’t a case of a movie that’s so bad it’s good, it actually is good.
While it may seem like there isn’t a lot here to separate the film from other exorcism stories (especially when there are several scenes of priests reciting prayers while brandishing crosses at a child who, possessed by a demon, is screaming obscenities in a growling voice), the depth of the storytelling is what makes a huge difference. Every element clicks in unison here, from the screenplay to the direction to the better than expected performances.
“The Pope’s Exorcist” is the type of movie that should be forgettable, but isn’t. I actually enjoyed it because it overdelivers on what it promises, and is a lot better than you’d expect.
Towards the end of the movie, I literally starting thinking, “wow, Crowe and Zovatto should star in future installments as ass-kicking priest sidekicks,” and bam! The film went ahead and set itself up for a sequel: 199 of them, to be exact. As batty as this sounds, I would — pun intended — watch the hell out of that.
By: Louisa Moore
Maybe they could go exorcise the rapist priests and those who hide them.
How original and edgy