Marie Gilbert is our resident expert on all things ghosts and ghouls, whether they’re in the movies or in real life. She knows a thing or two about the afterlife, hauntings, and maybe even exorcisms (I’ll have to ask her about that one). Regardless, I think a film like The Pope’s Exorcist would be right up here alley, as it works to meld Hollywood storytelling and real-life horrors.
The selling point for The Pope’s Exorcist, which spent a few weeks in theatres earlier this year, is that it’s based on the true story of Father Gabriele Amorth, who served the Diocese of Rome and founded the International Association of Exorcists. Amorth wrote a series of well-regarded books about his exploits, claiming to have performed upwards of 160,000 exorcisms of varying degrees. It sounds like the stuff of movies, so it makes sense that eventually Father Amorth’s tales would make it into onto the big screen.
In The Pope’s Exorcist, Amorth is played by Russell Crowe, and comes across as a badass, Vespa-riding priest always open to helping those in spiritual crisis. The main story centers on an American family, mom Julia (Alex Essoe), teenage daughter Amy (Laurel Madsen), and young son Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney), who have relocated to an ancestral Spanish abbey left to them by the kid’s late father. Soon after arriving, Henry seemingly becomes possessed by a powerful demon, Asmodeus. It’s up to Amorth and a local priest (Daniel Zovatto), to save Henry and the family.
The Pope’s Exorcist got so-so reviews when it was released, but I enjoyed it more than I expected to, at least for a good chunk of the film. I think Russell Crowe was a lot of fun in the film, and dove into his character with the best intentions. There are some decent jump scares, and the first 25 minutes or so has some great music cues, but sadly, the final moments digress into some seriously suspect CGI that seems out of place with the rest of the film. It’s a disappointing finale.
However, the film made enough money and Crowe is a big enough star that there’s talk of a follow-up to The Pope’s Exorcist. The real life Father Amorth has multiple stories to draw from, and if a sequel can find the right one and tone down the CGI and turn up the scares, I’d be up for another exorcism.