Inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, The Pope’s Exorcist follows Amorth as he investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
Editing: Matt Evans
Music: Robert Ames
Cast: Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, Laurel Marsden, Cornell John, Ryan O’Grady, Alex Essoe and Franco Nero
Directors: Julius Avery
Writers: Michael Petroni, Evan Spiliotopoulos, R. Dean McCreary, Chester Hastings, Jeff Katz, Gabriele Amorth
Cinematography: Khalid Mohtaseb
In Rome, in the early 1980s, Father Gabriel Amorth (Russell Crowe) found himself in the firing line of new thinking within the Catholic Church. The belief is the Devil doesn’t exist. The Pope himself doesn’t agree and sends Father Gabriel on an assignment. But when something doesn’t feel right, the Pope takes it upon himself to help with research.
Gabrielle heads to Spain, where he meets Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto). Gabrielle takes a look around the Abbey and is rather casual about it all. Esquibel, however, has already witnessed what’s happened and is full of fear. With a shot from his hip flask, Gabrielle meets the family living in the Abbey. It’s the young boy, Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney), that Gabrielle is most interested in.
Henry lay frail as he slept on his bed, only to be awoken by Gabrielle. With a simple test, Gabrielle realises he’s dealing with a very strong demon. By this point, the Pope also knows this after finding a letter hidden in a book regarding exorcisms from previous centuries. The letter claims the Abbey has been lost to the Devil.
In an attempt to discover more about the Abbey and find the Devil’s name, the Priests find a hidden chamber below the Abbey where the Devil was once contained. Their search pays off when they see the Devil’s name and try to use it to coax the Devil out of Henry.
This only annoys the Devil more because he possesses Henry’s sister, Amy (Laurel Marsden). The Priests are running out of time and must forgive themselves for being strong enough to help this little boy and stop the Devil.
If you enjoy James Wan’s The Conjuring films, especially one of their spin-offs, The Nun, you’ll enjoy this. It has the same feel and looks. The odd jump scare here or there and otherwise dark scenes filled with religious talk and personal forgiveness. But other than that, the film doesn’t hold much more.
Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Les Misérables) is clearly the pull for this film. Although his accent sometimes sounds like that of Zeus in Thor: Love and Thunder, his character is rather fun and provides the dramatic when required. The character of Father Gabriel Amorth is based on the actual Exorcist to the Pope with a number of written encounters of his adventures. This has given Crowe a good base for his character, which he feels at ease with.
The remaining cast is all relative newcomers to the big screen. But Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, who plays Henry, manages to give a terrifying performance as the Devil. This frail child with a lot of love but doesn’t say a lot of switches to having an absolute potty mouth thrashing around on the bed. It’s this that nightmares are made of.
While the cast is, for the most part, newcomers or those who have yet to have a lot of big screen time, the writing doesn’t let them reach their full potential. It has a daytime soap opera style that doesn’t give the characters an authentic voice and certainly doesn’t give the actors much space to delve too deep into their characters to deliver.
When it comes to the visual aspect of the film, it’s surprisingly rather detailed. From the stunning Abbey itself, they manage to give it almost two sides. While being renovated, this beautiful place is filled with lots of light, high ceilings and stunning countryside surrounding. Then it has a dark rundown exterior. The garden is overgrown and dead, and the rooms have a simple and empty feel. And that’s before you make it to the basement.
The special effects, however, are over the top and almost what you would expect from a cheap computer game. The big battle in the basement with the Virgin Mary rising up or the rocks filled with an orange fire seems reasonable and over the top.
What you have here is a perfect case of a film that doesn’t reach its full potential, or perhaps it never had a chance as it’s a tale told before and told very well, i.e. The Exorcist. But while it seems flat, it gives some good suspense in the third act.