The Pope’s Exorcist: Praise Be To Crowe.


A possessed boy with a demonic voice growls ‘Bring me the priest!’ to his bewildered mother. A fresh-faced chaplain dutifully visits the child but is flung out of the room with Looney Tunes velocity. ‘WRONG FUCKING PRIEST!’ snarls the boy.

At this point, it’s clear that  The Pope’s Exorcist has its forked tongue stuck firmly within its cheek. The question is: will you raise a cynical eyebrow, or sit back and laugh along with its satanic silliness? 

One person who is certainly in on the joke is Russell Crowe, playing titular exorcist Gabriele Amorth ( a real-life figure, who was the subject of a feature-length documentary by William Friedkin).  Crowe is having a ball as  Amorth,  once again going for the comic Mediterranean drawl he used in Thor: Love and Thunder. Now that his physique is well past its Maximus prime, Crowe has become a sparky character actor. He’s a huge amount of fun in this role, while still retaining the gravitas needed.

The story is hardly the most original take on the exorcism subgenre…it follows the beats of  William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, while throwing in a little Da Vinci Code tomb-raiding. 

The opening exorcism scene is electric and sets up Amorth’s assertion that most cases are not, in fact, supernatural. When it comes to the central possession, though, the film shows its hand far too early. Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, playing the young Henry, is sufficiently creepy, but director Julius Avery’s choice to have his voice so patently dubbed over means we don’t have the chance to speculate over whether this is genuine. 

Meanwhile, Alex Essoe and Laurel Marsden are handed fairly bland roles as the mother and sister respectively. It’s a treat, though, to see Spaghetti Western legend Franco Nero lend his piercing blue eyes to the role of the Pope. Given the ham-fisted sequel tease at the end, one hopes Nero’s pontiff will get to return in more arse-kicking form. 

While never exactly scary, there is a certain pulpy thrill to be had here, and Avery is not one to shy away from a good bit of splattery gore. Like so many demonic horror films, it, unfortunately, devolves into a shouty overbearing finale, one that resembles a heavy metal album cover come to life. Still, as a Friday-night fright fest, The Pope’s Exorcist gets the job done. 

Thanks largely to Russell Crowe’s game performance, The Pope’s Exorcist is a good deal more enjoyable than it should be. Dumb, pulpy fun… and there’s nothing sinful about that.


The Pope’s Exorcist is now showing at the Eden Cinemas