Russel Crowe venturing into a horror film is an intriguing premise. Here, he plays Father Amorth, the most famous exorcist in the world. He is informed of a strange case to investigate in Spain. Upon his arrival, he realizes this case has a unique caveat via a Vatican coverup. Father Amorth must uncover the truth before the demon’s plan becomes reality.
Unfortunately, I missed this one in theaters. The trailer wasn’t very enticing and seemed to follow tropes from other exorcism films. But “The Pope’s Exorcist” is a cut above the rest! It has some nice surprises that prove even exorcism movies can do something new. Russell Crowe is the reason the film is successful. He brings a strong performance as Father Amorth, an unorthodox and witty priest who handles exorcisms better than most. Crowe delivers many great lines that counter demonic cynicism well, cracking jokes with a pairing of whisky. What’s nice is that his sense of humor brings a fresh perspective on the church and how his faith grounds him through and through. For a genre that often feels repetitive, Father Amorth delivers some much-needed energy! Crowe is accompanied by a younger priest with less charisma and confidence. Daniel Zovatto plays Father Esquibel, who has a nice character progression by the end of the film. The two develop a likable dynamic that I would love to see in a future film.
The demonic possession scenes are surprisingly strong too. Crowe’s charisma is matched by a demon that brings a fresh sense of terror. This raises the stakes for the boy being harmed and the spiritual vulnerability the church faces. I enjoyed the sense of mystery that lingered until the big reveal. What’s exciting is that I would actually enjoy seeing a sequel. Since Father Amorth had so many cases throughout his career (yes, he was real), there is plenty of material to explore. Another unique aspect is the set pieces. We are featured to some dark, creepy underground relics that elevate the situation at hand.
“The Pope’s Exorcist” could have been one of the best horror films of the past few years. In certain ways, it is! It has some unique story elements and a strong lead character. But a few problems hinder the film from being truly great. While I appreciate some gutsy new directions, I think it tries to explore one too many ideas. There are certain segments that get lost in the weeds that are largely left unexamined. Simplifying the third act would have made the story more efficient.
The family being tormented was a weaker part of the story. The only thing we learn about them is that the father in the family passed away. Otherwise, they are largely left unexplored. Since the boy doesn’t talk in the film (outside of the possession) we don’t get much development from him. If the film explored how each character was affected by their father’s passing, the emotional pull would have been stronger. But this problem continues until the film’s end. The family’s resolution is quite abrupt and we don’t get much closure. I wish their trauma was examined further and they got a more fulfilling conclusion.
“The Pope’s Exorcist” is one of the better exorcism movies in recent memory. It combines a unique story with a charismatic lead, making the film stand out amongst the pack. It’s not the scariest movie to come out this year, but it should provide enough thrills to satisfy genre enthusiasts. Give it a watch in preparation for spooky season, or simply to see Russell Crowe instigating arguments with a demon.