The Pope’s Exorcist, featuring Oscar winner Russell Crowe in the titular role, is the latest horror film to hit the big screen. The film is based on the story of a real-life priest, Father Gabriele Amorth, who was selected by the Pope as the Vatican’s senior exorcist in the 1980s!! Father Gabriele claims to have performed thousands of exorcisms and has even published books about them. The Pope’s Exorcist is said to be based on two of his memoirs, “An Exorcist Tells His Story” and “An Exorcist: More Stories”.
Given the tacky title and an often-repeated concept in the horror genre, most people would approach this with low expectations. This is actually a good thing as you will likely be pleasantly surprised that this isn’t as bad as you thought it would be. In 1973, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist set the standard for exorcism films, and no other film came close to matching it. The Pope’s Exorcist is no exception, as no fresh territory is covered and the same rites and possessed behaviours are repeated. Nonetheless, I must acknowledge that The Pope’s Exorcist captures our interest and is, in my opinion, far superior to many previous exorcism films. Much of this is due to Russell Crowe’s effective and fascinating performance. He is surprisingly good here. I half expected him to execute a spoof of his role, but instead he embraced the role of Father Gabriel without mocking his character or the plot. His Father Gabriel has a laid-back demeanor and yes, cool. He also drives a stylish scooter to his exorcism! He has a fascinating perspective on religion, and his exorcism technique makes the proceedings more tangible. The finale was quite amazing and genuinely thrilling!
It would be absurd to claim that the Pope’s Exorcist is based on a true story, considering the highly inflated and dramatic Hollywood-styled recounting of the many confrontations with the possessed. However, it is based on a real-life figure and exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth, who was truly a Vatican exorcist. In reality, I wish the filmmakers had made a biography of Father Gabriele rather than exploiting his connections to exorcism and turning it into a standard horror picture. That might have been a more enlightening movie. The film even finished with the typical open-ended moment, allowing for this to be the start of a new franchise with more exorcism films to follow!