The Pope’s Exorcist Review

There’s a moment in the third act of The Pope’s Exorcist where we hear the internal monologue of a main character in the throws of their demonic experience. It got me thinking that might make for a compelling and fresh angle in a genre made famous 50 years ago with Regan and her backwards turning head. I have accurately described it as a moment. It’s over before we know it and reminded me a little of what Tom Hardy hears in Venom after his symbiotic takeover. With Russell Crowe having a ball in Julius Avery’s horror thriller, Exorcist has a few quirky moments that I appreciated before it reverts to the tropes we’re familiar with.

The screenplay’s peculiar nature is evident in the first scene. We are introduced to Father Gabriele Amorth (Crowe), who served as the Pope’s go-to exorcism guy for decades beginning in the 1970s. That’s in real life, folks! You can look it up on Wiki and and it’s a fascinating read. I’m sure Amorth’s books are as well. He claims to have performed 100k+ of the purification rituals. The opening sequence finds Amorth in 1987 transferring the evil vibes to a pig, who is then violently transferred to breakfast.

Crowe proceeds to ham it up around the nuns and his superiors in Vatican City as he awaits the next assignment. Many of his fellow priests think he needs a demotion. The head pontiff (Franco Nero) believes otherwise and he’s soon riding his Vespa to an abandoned abbey in Spain.

That’s where American widow Julia (Alex Essoe), teenage daughter Amy (Laurel Marsden), and preteen Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) are residing after their departed patriarch willed them the property. The monastery holds centuries old secrets under its rickety structure and a nasty spirit soon overtakes Henry. A local Father (Daniel Zovatto) can’t figure out the invader so Amorth is assigned. The young boy’s demon proves canny at using his would-be exorcist’s previous sins against him.

One could claim that The Pope’s Exorcist offers nothing new to the frequently explored material. I could argue the opposite. After all, I hadn’t seen the pig angle and there’s also papal projectile vomiting. Avery, Crowe, and screenwriters Michael Petroni and Evan Spiliotopoulos are to be commended for its campy B-movie spirit. Amorth has a habit of exclaiming “CUCKOO!” at passersby during unexpected times. The cuckoo bits work often enough that I had little trouble putting up with the expected sections of traditional possession.

*** (out of four)

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