The Pope’s Exorcist (2023)

The Pope's ExorcistYoga is satanic because it leads to practice of Hinduism and all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation and practicing yoga is satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter. Ko-ko. –  Father Gabriele Amorth


Father Gabriele Amorth (1925-2016) was an exorcist of the Vatican city who battled against Dr. Satan’s neverending army of fallen angels throughout most of his life, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he also fought nazi demons during WW 2. The one and only reason I’ve heard of this Italian gentleman is because of the documentary The Devil and Father Amorth from 2017, directed by none other than William Friedkin. And woof, what a bag of unholy baloney that documentary is. An utter, demented clown-show which I can only recommend with a good conscience just by how funny-bad it is.


And here we are with a polished  supernatural horror film from Hollywood based on a true story, in the same alley like The Conjuring films, this time focused on the aforementioned pope’s own exorcist Gabriele Amorth, played by a charismatic Russel Crowe. The film starts off on a stormy night during the mid 1980s where we see our Demon Buster in action as he cleanses a possessed boy, tied to his bed.  Amorth brings a pig with him, and pretends to lure the demon to posses it so he then can blow the pig’s brains out with a shotgun and get quickly done with it. Poor piglet.


Then we get introduced to the American widow Julia who have just arrived at the countryside of Spain to inherit an ancient convent from the 1400s from her deceased husband. And with her she has the younger son Henry and the teenage daughter Amy. Henry hasn’t spoken since he got traumatized after seeing his father die in a brutal accident, while Amy just hates her mother’s guts for dragging her ass all over to Spain. Suddenly, without no warning, Henry gets possessed by an angry demon who really wants to have a chat with Father Amorth specifically. Bring me the priest”, he growls with the voice of Ralph Ineson. Since he asks so nicely, our maestro drives all the way to Spain with his Vespa Ferrari to do his holy service and confront this nameless demon. A rabbit hole of conspiracies and other dark secrets about the Vatikan are revealed when Amorth opens a well that leads to a morbid tomb under the convent.


While Russel Crowe carries most of The Pope’s Exorcist on his strong shoulders, the film really suffers from a lazy and rushed script that seems like a first draft. The film doesn’t allow us to get to know this American family or give them much of a personality, and it lacks a good build-up atmosphere of underlying demonic threat as the possession suddenly happens almost like someone just slipped on a banana peel. Shit happens. I’ve given up expecting anything new or groundbreaking from possession films (or haunted house films, for that matter) a long time ago, but at least give us some tension, something to make our armhairs rise. It’s as scary as an episode of Supernatural. On the positive side though, the film is solid and well directed by Julius Avery (Overlord and Samaritan) who does his best to at least gives us tasty visuals and some ghoulish scenery to chew on.


And back to Russel Crowe who is the only reason to give this film at least one watch. To give the film some spice of authenticity, he speaks both Italian and English with an accent as thick as Crowe’s  belly in Unhinged (2020). He’s classy, sympathetic and plays the character with a great sense of humor, as he likes to crack jokes to annoy Satan, sips whiskey after a long roadtrip with his Vespa and… wash his armpits with holy water. Without any spoiling, the film wraps up in a ridiculous climax with cheap CGI effects such as a rubberish stretched-out mouth, an effect that’s been a parody of itself in decades. And of course we have an even more cheap-looking body explosion that belongs in a discarded Xbox game from 2005, before we all can say Amen and good night. It was as dumb and comedic as I predicted after watching the first trailer, and given that I rarely laugh out loud in a movie theater, I can’t say I’m that disappointed.


The Pope's Exorcist The Pope's Exorcist


Director: Julius Avery
Writers: Michael Petroni, Evan Spiliotopoulos, R. Dean McCreary
Country & year: USA, UK, Spain, 2023
Actors: Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Franco Nero, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, Laurel Marsden, Cornell John, Ryan O’Grady, Bianca Bardoe, Santi Bayón, Paloma Bloyd


Related post: The Devil and Father Amorth (2017)



Tom Ghoul













The Unholy (2021)

Mary Elnor is a young woman being accused of Witchcraft in Banfield, Massachusetts, in 1845. She is being hanged from a tree, and then lit on fire by an angry mob, who also bounds her spirit to the body of a doll before she takes her final breath.


Years later, we meet Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who is a journalist who has gotten his reputation thrown into the gutter after being caught faking cases just to get publicity. He’s on an assignment which leads him to Boston, where he is going to look into a case of a cow with so-called satanic markings on it (which proves to be a teenage prank). Before deciding to leave the place and look for other means of stories that can give him some much-needed income, he finds the tree where Mary was hanged, and also the doll which was once “hidden” (in the very visible and big hole of the tree trunk…). He crushes the doll, and of course, then freeing the evil spirit of Mary Elnor.


After it gets dark and Gerry has decided to leave the place and return home, he sees a young girl run across the road to the tree where he found the doll earlier, and hears her speaking before fainting right in front of the tree. He takes the girl to a church nearby, and learns that her name is Alice and that she is actually deaf and can’t speak. This peaks his interest as he knows he heard her speak just moments before, and decides to stay around town to follow this strange case a bit further. Soon, Alice brings publicity from both close and far as not only does she now speak, but she claims that she was cured by the Virgin Mary, and she also starts healing people. When Gerry finds out that the so-called Virgin Mary is not what Alice believes her to be, but is instead a sinister entity, he tries to reveal what is actually the truth for once.


The Unholy is directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos, and is also his directional debut. It is based on a novel from 1983 by James Herbert, called Shrine. In the leading role we find Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whom most people probably know best as the villain “Negan” from The Walking Dead, but he also played the father of Supernatural-duo Sam & Dean. And oh boy, does this movie have a few cheesy Supernatural-vibes indeed!


The movie’s opening sequence leaves no mystery to be revealed, we already know that “Mary” isn’t the Virgin Mary, but the witch that was executed in 1845, Mary Elnor. Since we already know what’s going on, it’s hard to build any real suspense or sense of mystery, so the progress forward relies heavily on actor performances and character interactions. Fortunately, Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a solid job as the journalist who has fallen from grace and needs to turn his career around, only to find himself facing a dilemma: knowing that he’s now got a real, true case in his hands (not just another hoax), but also finding out that there’s something sinister going on, and that profiting from this case might not be the best moral decision. Thus, the lead character carries much of the movie. As for the villain, Mary Elnor herself, she does unfortunately not come off as the least bit scary. Often when she appears on screen, with her jerky movements and overly villainous treats, you almost feel like you should get your controller in hand and prepare yourself for a video-game boss battle. Like you’re watching some kind of cutscene before a fight. It does add another layer of cheese, however, and makes her appearances particularly entertaining.


And with all of that being said: The Unholy is not a scary movie, not even creepy. But if you can enjoy it as an easy-going popcorn flick with a little bit of B-grade cheese here and there (or like some kind of long Supernatural episode with Sam & Dean’s dad going on a solo-adventure), you’ll probably get some entertainment out of it.


The Unholy


Director: Evan Spiliotopoulos
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cricket Brown, William Sadler, Katie Aselton, Cary Elwes, Diogo Morgado, Bates Wilder, Marina Mazepa, Christine Adams, Dustin Tucker, Gisela Chipe, Danny Corbo, Sonny Corbo



Vanja Ghoul