The latest horror movie to hit theaters is a mixture of strong character-driven scenes and unnecessarily over-the-top action. “The Pope’s Exorcist” stars Russell Crowe as Father Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist for the Vatican, and is based on the real figure in history.
Amorth performs exorcisms for the church, the majority of which are — by his own admission — not true possessions but rather mentally disturbed people. Still, Amorth forcefully defends his position to those trying to remove him. While 98% of his cases may only require psychiatrists and doctors, the other 2% percent are true evil.
The pope sends him to Spain to exorcize an American boy named Henry who is possessed by a powerful demon. With the help of local Father Esquibel, Amorth attempts to learn the demon’s name to perform the exorcism and uncover further secrets in the old Spanish abbey where the boy and his family are staying.
Crowe’s performance as Amorth is the highlight of the film. The first half of the movie shows him dealing with the politics of the Vatican. Younger members of the church view Amorth as unnecessary and consider evil an idea rather than a tangible threat. Crowe shows his acting prowess in his portrayal of the practical and experienced exorcist. It is satisfying to watch the devout man deal with the challenges thrown at him with disarming humor and strong determination.
Peter DeSouza-Feighoney is frighteningly convincing in the role of Henry as the possessed boy. Audiences will be surprised by the child’s acting; it’s easy to forget he is an actor and not really possessed. The demon has some particularly disturbing lines to be expected from a purely evil creature preying on others’ trauma and fears.
“The Pope’s Exorcist” begins with slow, character driven scenes, but as the plot progresses, the movie becomes a spectacle with a climactic ending that was a bit overdone.
It seems like the movie included 80s songs out of obligation since the movie is set in 1987. The first time one played, it felt bizarrely out of place, contrasting with the previous dark and serious scenes.
The mixture of Amorth’s strong character writing and Crowe’s acting make the story captivating throughout. The man is unwavering in his commitment to the church and his faith, and his conflict with the demon feels like two unstoppable forces facing off. This battle between a demon and the pope’s exorcist is worth the watch.