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 Devil and Father Amorth (2017)

In 1972 William Friedkin made “The Exorcist”. Now, fourty years later, he got the opportunity to film a real exorcism. He travels to Rome, Italy, to meet Father Gabriele Amorth, a priest and the Vatican’s Exorcist in Chief himself who’s performed over 50.000 exorcisms. During the documentary he was 91 years old and a bit fragile, but showed no sign of slowing down. There are 60 million people in Italy and we learn that 500.000 of them are seeing an exorcist every year. Yikes.


One of them is the 47-year old Christina who claims to be possessed by the devil (or 89 (!) demons as claimed in an online article), and Father Amorth have exorcised her eight times without any success. In this documentary, “The Devil and Father Amorth”, we’ll witness the ninth attempt. And Friedkin was allowed by the Vatican to film the session, but only with a small video camera and without any crew. And according to this documentary, The Vatikan has never allowed any exorcisms to be filmed before.  So I bet Mr. Friedkin was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning to finally witness the real deal, and show it to the world.


And after we briefly meet Christina, I wish there was a lot more focus on her and how she functions in the everyday-life while supposedly being possessed by 89 freakin’ demons. Seriously. How does she even get out of bed? How is she being able to do anything? And how does her boyfriend and family handle the situation? And this being the ninth time she’s being exorcised, she sure looks pretty healthy with her make-up an all. She gives a quick interview before the exorcism session starts, while she smiles and acts like she’s waiting for her turn to do an audition for a song contest, Italian Idol, or something. But no, there’s no in-depth with her, she just comes and goes. Is she really possessed, mentally ill or just a really bad actress who wants some attention? Still, Father Amorth is certainly convinced that she’s possessed.


And then the session begins in Father Amorth’s office with Christina’s family and relatives as witnesses. And oh’boy oh’boy what a cringy witnessing that is. If I sat in that room, I would really struggle not to laugh.


I didn’t expect any head-twisting, levitation or anything like that, but if William Friedkin waited 40 years for this, he is in his full right to tell what he really thinks. Well, he does not. And someone in the sound-department had obviously played the zombie-mode of Call of Duty and thought the sound effects from the zombies would be a great idea for a double-toned demon voice. This is an element that many viewers with a brain and common sense have pointed out, and Friedkin was asked directly in an interview with Vulture if there was some manipulation of the voice in post-production. His reply was “I wouldn’t fuck around with that! That’s ridiculous!” Ha ha, yeah right, Mr. Friedkin. With all due respect, we’re not that dumb and naive.


So watching this with an open mind is just plain impossible. It’s also quite amusing that this thing actually “baffled” medics when it was screened at the Venice Film Festival, and a group of doctors watching the exorcism  of Christina in a meeting room with a straight face. Like we’ve never seen anything like this before. Bob Larson, anyone? He’s one of the many television evangelists who’s done the same thing for decades, and even though he’s batshit crazy, there’s not much difference in what we see here. But when some ancient dude from the Vatican enters the screen and swings his cruicifix to someones forehead, it’s suddenly somehow believable? Meh..


Spoiler warning: The ending makes it even more questionable and shady when Friedkin sets up a final interview with Christina in a small village outside of Rome. We’re being told that he meets her in a church, which he describes as “trapped in a living nightmare”. And as if all the credibility hasn’t been flushed down the toilet already, he didn’t even take his camera inside… How could this get even worse? To top the level of cringe, he retells the scenario from his memory and adds some dramatic music and sounds of the demon voice in a desperate attempt to give us a climax, or a sort of. So there you have it. “The Call of Duty Zombie-Devil and Father Amorth”. What a joke. It’s hard to tell if this is a mockumentary or not, you’d expect more from a director like William Friedkin, and not a lazy nothingburger like this.


Just before Father Amorth could perform Christina’s tenth exorcism, he dies. Rest in Peace. Now it’s time to call Sam and Dean. Friedkin then gives a quick epilogue while standing in front of The Exorcist Steps in Georgetown as a reminder that he at least made one of the greatest horror films of all time.


The Devil and Father Amorth


Director: William Friedkin
Country & year: Italy | USA, 2017
Cast: Gabriele Amorth, Robert Barron, William Friedkin


Related posts: The Pope’s Exorcist (2023)



Tom Ghoul