By Amy James, Second Year, Film
A strained family dynamic, an Abbey holding untold Catholic secrets, and Russel Crowe on a Vespa. The Pope's Exorcist has little potential from the get-go, and despite continually setting itself up for success as being able to provide something unique for the genre, it instead offers an unwanted promise of a sequel.
The Pope's Exorcist follows a case that the real-life chief exorcist of the Vatican, Father Gabriele Amorth (Crowe), faced in an abandoned Spanish Abbey in 1987. The film opens with a sequence that sets the overarching tone for the movie, seeing Crowe perform an exorcism that ends with the death of a pig.
Upon arriving in Spain, Amorth meets the family whose young son is afflicted with a possession. He teams up with the local priest (Daniel Zovatto), and the two attempt to exorcise the boy multiple times until they realise that this possession is not all it appears to be.
Searching for the Abbey and uncovering secrets comparable to that of the Da Vinci Code is what the overarching plot of the film becomes, and less focus is placed on the young boy's possession, lending the movie to fall less into the horror genre and more into that of a thriller.
Jumpscares are something that are commonly associated with horror films, and the possession sub-genre allows for this trope to come in full swing. With such a grand title, The Pope's Exorcist would expectedly include no shortage of such scares, yet the film fails to rise to the occasion.
Despite the upsetting lack of scares, the acting of the young Pete DeSouza-Feighoney, who harbours the demon inside of his body for the majority of the film, successfully creates most of the feelings of terror and unease within the movie. His frail and small stature allows for a performance that is not only believable but genuinely discomforting to watch.
The final act of the film feels like a cheap homage to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (2006) and even goes as far as to explain away catastrophic events caused by the Catholic church, such as the Spanish Inquisition and the long-standing child sexual abuse scandals that they have faced by essentially saying, "the Devil made me do it".
Overall, Crowe's performance is as successful as one could expect from casting him in a priest-exorcist role. He certainly brings an element of delight to the position and does not hold back on conveying the fun that he is quietly having as Amorth.
Performances from DeSouza-Feighoney and Zovatto are as strong as the script permits them to be, yet are pleasant surprises for a film that otherwise is a tired and unoriginal rehashing of the popular demonic possession subgenre.
Featured Image: Sony Pictures and IMDB
Will you be watching The Pope's Exorcist?