– Yoga 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.
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)