- Colin Fraser
THE POPE'S EXORCIST
TWO STARS The exorcist for Rome is dispatched to do battle with a demon, one who has has issues with those who run the Vatican.
HORROR US English #THEPOPESEXORCIST
Starring Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto
Within The Vatican’s exorcism department there’s an exorcist for the diocese of Rome, a man who answers to his bishop, the Pope. And until 2016, his name was Gabriel Amorth (played here by Russell Crowe), a chap with a robust sense of loyalty and an even more robust sense of humour - useful for a man in his position. He also believed that 99% of cases that came across his desk were little more than mental health issues. Then there was that pesky 1% which neither science nor medicine could answer. This is one of those cases.
About here any attribution to ‘true story’ leaves the theatre as trope after horror film trope are lined up and knocked off in the glaring light of CGI. We have the haunted house (in Spain), the out-of-towners who stay there (Americans), a sad back story (she’s a widow with two kids), a grouchy adolescent, a local priest who’s out of his depth, a senior cleric who tries to clean things up, self-harm, contorted bodies and a hell of lot of swearing. All in all, it’s cinematic-exorcism 101.
Fortunately there’s Amorth's sense of humour. He’s been around this block more than once and knows a thing or two about foul mouthed children. He also has a bit of a history with this particular demon, to the concern of his superiors in Rome. By and large, he takes it on the chin and gives back as good as he gets. And thank good ness for that as THE POPE’S EXORCIST has no other redeeming features. Routine production barely props up a narrative that owes as much to STRANGER THINGS as it does THE EXORCIST; both of which are considerably better than this soggy entry in the genre.
By the time we get to The Crucial Fight it’s all got a bit too silly (with not much to clue us in as to whether the filmmakers know how silly it’s got.) With one mega-demon down and 199 to go, one audience wag opined that “the scariest thing about that was the prospect of a sequel”. God help us. At least Russell looked like he was enjoying himself.