In The Pope’s Exorcist, the year is 1987 and young mother, Julia, and her two children are in Spain, overseeing the renovation of an abbey. Julia inherited the building after her husband passed away in a car accident, and she is keen to see it spruced up as quickly as possible, so it can be sold, before the family move back to the US.
But shortly into their stay at the abbey, Julia’s son starts acting unusual. Medical tests are performed, but produce no answers, and even though it is difficult for Julia to admit, it appears as if the boy has become possessed.
After a priest is brought in to see the child, it becomes clear that a more experienced member of the church needs to visit the family to offer assistance. Step forward Father Gabriele Amorth – an experienced exorcist who knows a thing or two about banishing demons.
But once Father Gabriele arrives, he realises he is dealing with a very dark force and one which will not be easily vanquished. In order to remove the demon, he needs to learn its name, and this will require him to uncover some secrets which have long been buried.
Directed by Julius Avery, and starring Russell Crowe, Franco Nero, and Ralph Ineson, The Pope’s Exorcist is a supernatural horror movie which is currently playing in UK cinemas, before arriving in the US on April 14th. The film is based on the memoirs of Father Gabriele Amorth – a real-life Italian Catholic priest and exorcist who claimed he performed countless exorcisms throughout his life.
Russell Crowe takes on the role of Amorth for The Pope’s Exorcist, and what a great performance he delivers. I’ll talk about the movie in a moment, but I’ll make it clear now, The Pope’s Exorcist is Crowe’s film, and he’s fab in the picture.
Crowe is completely engaging, quite playful, and very convincing in his role. He is the bright spark in The Pope’s Exorcist, and the ace up its sleeve.
I have no idea how well this movie will perform financially over the coming weeks, but I genuinely believe a new film series could be built around Crowe’s Father Amorth. If Sony Pictures want their own version of The Conjuring Universe, then they can create one around this character, moving back and forth around his timeline to develop new horror stories.
As for the film itself, The Pope’s Exorcist is perfectly serviceable, if nothing amazing. It is a fairly bog-standard exorcism picture, which contains all the things you would expect to see in such a film and not once does it deviate from the checklist.
You want a possessed, foul-mouthed child, who shouts expletives while spouting demonic words? You got it!
You want a few discussions about religion, faith, and the church? Yeah, well, you can have that too!
The Pope’s Exorcist does everything you expect it to and not much more. This is exorcism 101, and won’t offer anything new to those well-versed in The Exorcist (1973) or anything of this ilk.
The film also falls short in the scares department, and no one watching this movie will need to sleep with the lights on. There are a couple of creepy shots here and there, but nothing that will cause the hairs to stand up on the back of anyone’s neck.
BUT – and it is a big BUT – despite its shortcomings, The Pope’s Exorcist is still decent enough. It might be a film that often goes through the motions, but it is quite entertaining.
The central premise is set up very quickly, the story works well, and the whole thing moves along at nice speed. From a technical point of view the set design, the costuming, lighting, and music are all fine, and there is a good atmosphere surrounding the picture.
And then of course, I come back to Crowe, who slots into this world all very neatly. Even when he’s surrounded by a bit of ropey CGI, or he’s pootling around on a scooter, he adds weight to every scene, and sells the heck out of this film.
With so many high-profile films playing on the big screen at present (Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Air, etc) I’m not sure The Pope’s Exorcist will be anyone’s first choice when it comes to a night out at the movies; but those who do opt for it will still have some fun. At around 100-minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome and should leave most audiences feeling as though they got a fair bit of escapism for the price of their ticket.
Exorcism movies are not my go-to horror films, and usually I find them very, very dull. The Pope’s Exorcist didn’t bore the life out of me, nor did it leave me feeling like I’d wasted my time, so I’d call that a win.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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