I did not realize that this movie, The Pope’s Exorcist, a supernatural horror film that I rented on Vudu tonight, was based on a real person. The titular character was Father Gabriele Amorth, an Italian Catholic priest and an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome, and he worked as an exorcist from 1986 until his death in 2016. This was revealed in box text at the end of the film, surprising me as the ‘based on a true story’ was not what I expected with this movie.
Father Amorth (Russell Crowe) and his questionable techniques were being looked at by a Church tribunal when he was called to see the Pope (Franco Nero). Amorth is sent to Spain where a young boy, Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney), who along with his mother Julia (Alex Essoe) and his snarly sister Amy (Laurel Marsden) had come to a Spanish abbey left to them by Julia’s late husband, who had died in a car crash. Henry had been in the car with his father and witnessed his grisly death.
Henry had been possessed by a demon and priest Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) had sent for help to the Catholic Church.
While much of this movie was the standard fare for these possession movies, there were a few things that I found interesting. First off, the character of Father Gabriele Amorth was quirky and unlike other priests that we have seen in this genre. Russell Crowe had a distinct presence about him and did a nice job giving these strange character traits to Father Amorth. Admittedly, some of the Italian accent may not have been the strongest, but it was not a distraction for me.
I thought the young actor, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, gave a solid physical performance as the possessed boy. He did a very good job with the lip synch of the demon voice that was provided by Ralph Ineson. I have to say that there were times that the demon voice was unintentionally funny as the British accent snuck through.
There were some interesting ideas in the plot that the film does not spend too much time truly diving into. Most of them, including the conspiracy, are brushed over at surface level and feel thrown in. None of it felt necessary for the film to have it included.
I did not like the character of Amy, who was written as a growly teenager with quite the attitude, but none of that really was focused on outside of the first ten to fifteen minutes. It was a thing that could have easily been left out because it was simply unimportant to the story.
There were some moments of the film that felt too ridiculous, moments that caused me to laugh out loud where I should not have been laughing. I feel as if there were some really solid ideas in this movie that could have been expanded on by dropping some of the lesser important details that the film seemed to focus in on.
The Pope’s Exorcist is a mixed bag. There are some things I liked about the film, and there were some that I found tedious and, even at times, silly. I was not bored by the movie though and I did enjoy Russell Crowe’s work. This is right on the border between fresh and rotten for me.