The Pope’s Exorcist (2023) Movie Review
For those of us who like exorcist-themed films like The Conjuring (2013), and its sequel, The Conjuring 2 which was released in 2016, the latest exorcism-themed film this time we can finally see on the big screen in Indonesia.
The Pope’s Exorcist is the latest work by Julius Avery, who was previously famous for passing Overlords (2018) and Samaritans (2022). In the first screening which was held at XXI Plaza Indonesia, Jakarta (6/4), The Pope’s Exorcist inspired by Pastor Gabriele Amorth’s terrible experience in facing the strongest demon he ever faced when he served as the Vatican’s Chief Exorcist.
The Pope’s Exorcist (2023) Synopsis
The story itself is set in 1987, when Pastor Gabriele Amorth (Russell Crowe) investigates a possession case that befell Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney), son of Julia (Alex Essoe) who came from the United States with his daughter, Amy (Laurel Marsden) at St. Sebastian in Castile, Spain. The monastery was actually inherited from Julia’s husband who had died in a car accident, and Julia plans to renovate the old monastery before selling it again.
However, when Julia and her two children moved to the monastery, which was being renovated, it invited victims. Workers investigating a sizeable hole in the wall suffered serious burns from the gas explosion. Amy was also disturbed by the loud banging of the walls and ceiling of the abbey. The worst was Henry, he was possessed by a mysterious demon with great power. Pastor Ezquibel (Daniel Zovatto), who is a local priest, tries to help Henry, but he himself is thrown far away by Henry, who is possessed by the demon.
The Pope (Franco Nero), as the supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican, was very upset to hear the news, and sent Father Gabriele Amorth who is also his friend, to investigate the case. The Pope indicated that there was a dark force that had overshadowed the place for hundreds of years. Father Gabriele then searched for written data related to St. Sebastian’s Monastery as a preparation before he went there.
Once he was ready, Father Gabriele left alone for Castille on his red and white Lambretta scooter. When he got there, he was surprised not to play when he met Henry and faced the demon. What he didn’t expect was, this demon was much smarter and stronger than all the demons he had ever faced so far. After he provoked it many times, he didn’t know the devil’s name at all.
Realizing that what he faced was much more dangerous this time, Father Gabriele stepped back for a moment, trying to find out the devil’s name by investigating the side yard of the abbey which turned out to have a dark and hidden conspiracy hundreds of years old owned by the Vatican. What conspiracy is that? Why is the demon he is facing now so much more difficult for him to beat than usual? And most important of all, what is the devil’s real name?
The Pope’s Exorcist (2023) Movie Review
Pastor Gabriele’s rebellious nature is portrayed for what it is
Pastor Gabriele Amorth is not a typical priest who has polite speech like other pastors. He is a priest who likes to greet fellow colleagues jokingly. He also acts according to his conscience when carrying out his duties as an exorcist. Because not all cases he handles are possessed, there are times when cases of psychiatric disorders that have characteristics similar to possession, he doesn’t handle, and leaves it entirely to the right profession. Therefore, his exorcisms always differed from those of the Cardinals who had been watching him. And Pastor Amorth indifferently while leaving told them to speak directly to the Pope who incidentally was Pastor Amorth’s superior and also the superiors of the Cardinals.
Russell Crowe in his research on this role said, “Father Amorth said some very controversial things in his time. He made some very strong statements, at various points in time, about his beliefs – which were not always 100% in line with the Church.” A statement that doesn’t go along well with other exorcists who usually follow the rules of the church.
Pastor Amorth’s somewhat rebellious character makes The Pope’s Exorcist present unusual, and full of surprises. Likewise, the use of Latin used by Russell Crowe side by side with English is also an interesting thing that we rarely see in similar films.
Technical excellence above average
The Pope’s Exorcist presents “something different” when we compare it to films of the same genre. This movie tends to be horrific, not scary, so we’re not going to find out jumpscares which we usually encounter in most horror films.
The gripping score by Jed Kurzel (The Babadook – 2014, Alien: Covenant – 2017) also emphasizes the constant chilling nuances until the film is over. The production design is also very good at taking many interesting angles in the Vatican, Ireland and Spain. An old Gothic castle in Limerick, Ireland was even used as a set for St Sebastian’s Abbey which is described as being located in Castille, Spain. The use of CGI by Julius Avery is even minimal, making this film really look real.
The Pope’s Exorcist Conclusion
Russell Crowe did look impressive in his first horror film this time. He successfully describes Pastor Gabriele Amorth’s long experience as a seasoned exorcist. As a priest who is in the inner circle of the Vatican, with a position directly under the Pope, Pastor Gabriele Amorth can provide another perspective on a profession whose existence is not even recognized by the Vatican itself.
During his lifetime, he had performed 100 thousand exorcisms, in fact in the face of the strongest demon within The Pope’s Exorcist also made him realize that he was not a great person in his profession.
The devil will always try to enter through our past traumas and sins we have committed before. It was those two things that made Pastor Amorth realize that the burden of past sins that he had been carrying all this time made it difficult for him to fight against the power of the devil that was much bigger than himself.