The Pope’s Exorcist is a 2023 American horror film about a real-life priest’s vast number of exorcisms battling Satan and his horde of demons.
Directed by Julius Avery (Overlord) from a screenplay co-written by Chester Hastings, R. Dean McCreary and Evan Spiliotopoulos.
The movie stars Russell Crowe (Thor: Love and Thunder; Unhinged; Kong: Skull Island; The Mummy 2017), Alex Essoe (Death of Me; Homewrecker; Doctor Sleep; Starry Eyes), Daniel Zovatto (Flinch; Don’t Breathe; It Follows; Beneath 2013), Franco Nero, Ralph Ineson, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, Laurel Marsden, Paloma Bloyd, Cornell John, River Hawkins, Carrie Munro, Bianca Bardoe, Edward Harper-Jones, Ryan O’Grady, Tom Bonington, Derek Carroll, Pablo Raybould, Victor Solé and Alessandro Gruttadauria.
The film is a portrayal of the real-life figure of Father Gabriele Amorth, a priest who acted as the chief exorcist for the Vatican and who performed more than 100,000 exorcisms during his lifetime. He died in 2016 at the age of ninety-one.
Amorth wrote two memoirs — An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories — detailing his perceived experiences battling with Satan and the demons that had clutched people in their evil.
Of course, in real life, the is no such thing as Satan or his demons and the Catholic Church actually exploits unfortunate people with mental issues to perpetuate Medieval-age superstitions and beliefs in order to cynically increase donations from gullible churchgoers.
“While Crowe’s laughable in the role, switching from broad comedy to righteous anger, the vocal work of Ralph Ineson as the demonised child is perhaps the most terrifying thing here. With side characters that are sketched so lightly and lazily as to be inconsequential, Ineson’s depth and sonorous tones give the demon its terror. It’s just a shame the rest of it never remotely rises to the level you’d expect…” At Darren’s World of Entertainment
“The mix of horror with a dose of comedy and even The Da Vinci Code-style historical mystery may have been tonally unexpected but Avery somehow manages to make it work. Special effects are a mixed bag while Avery doesn’t forget to amp up some of the horror scenes with unabashedly B-movie energy of blood and gore, particularly during the all-hell-breaks-loose climactic finale.” 3 out of 5, Casey’s Movie Mania
“This is a bona fide horror film, and one that tries to freshen up the subgenre a bit, as not only is the nature of the obsession different, but the finale also boasts plenty of FX bombast. Above all, however, the film works because of Russell Crowe, who speaks partly Italian, but otherwise with a noticeable accent. More importantly, he endows the humble servant of God with humor. 4 out of 4, Kino Fans [translated from German]
” …the plot is simply too ridiculous […] As a horror film, this film is not scary at all. As a drama film, this film lacks an evocative dramatic touch. Then as a biographical film, this film is too much fantasy nuanced.” Montase Film
“The Exorcist understood that it wasn’t the physical manifestation of the demon that was scary: it was the suggestion that such great and unknown evil could even exist in the world that sent shivers down our spines. Five decades later, The Exorcist remains one of the scariest movies ever made; The Pope’s Exorcist doesn’t even attempt to work on that level. Instead, the narrative leans into tropes from Japanese horror rather than possession movies.” The Prague Reporter
“The Pope’s Exorcist is a film that will delight anyone who is fascinated by exorcism films. In this aspect it stands out greatly. To those who are little used to or not very accommodating with tapes of these characteristics, tell them to give it a try. They will definitely have a good time.” Terror Weekend [translated from Spanish]
“More interesting than the demon and the possession of young Henry is the mythology about the abbey itself, which is told by filmmaker Julius Avery . At least until the clichéd but nonetheless eerie mood culminates in a larger-than-life, mismatched action finale. Because the characters at its center are poorly defined, their destiny doesn’t pull you in as much as it should.” Treffpunkt Kritic [translated from German]
In the US, The Pope’s Exorcist was released theatrically on April 7, 2023, by Sony’s Screen Gems subsidiary. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 13, 2023.
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