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The Pope’s Exorcist

The Pope’s Exorcist
Director: Julius Avery
Starring: Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe
Genre: 666

In doing my research for this review the one thing that stood out was that nearly every exorcist-themed film screen grab and movie poster contained girls and boys with bad hair, gnarly teeth, bloodshot eyes, and bloodstained pyjamas and nighties.

Exorcism films aren’t so much a genre rather a series of clichés and stereotypes. Maybe, therefore, you can give credit to some of the trailblazers like The Exorcist (1973), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Exorcist III (1990), Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) and The Exorcist (2023). The Pope’s Exorcist is no exception.

But what (in theory anyway) is supposed to make The Pope’s Exorcist differ from every other film in the “genre” is that it’s based on a true story. It is true that Father Gabriele Amorth was the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican from 1986 until his death in 2016. But that’s it, really, as far as reality goes. And that’s a shame because it is a lost opportunity demonstrated by the film’s first 30 minutes.

In the first few scenes Father Amorth (Russell Crowe) performs an exorcism but then reveals to the Pope it was actually an exercise in psychology and he undertook actions to merely calm down an ADHD child. The subsequent amusing debate (apparently the real Father Amorth embraced humour because the Devil hated humour) was interesting, well-acted and potentially set up a unique and compelling drama.

Which, of course, all went out the window (sometimes literally) when Amorth’s exorcism of a possessed American child in Spain went standard Devil horror with jump scares, gymnastic calisthenics, deep-throated murder promises, head spins and multicoloured body explosions.

Apparently, Russell Crowe enjoyed making the film. The same can’t be said of those who watch it.

Rating  : 111

 

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