Horror Review: The Pope’s Exorcist (2023)

Father Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist for the Vatican, battles Satan and innocent-possessing demons. A detailed portrait of a priest who performed more than 100,000 exorcisms in his lifetime.

I have to say I do enjoy a demon style posession film.

Because I enjoy these type of films I have to say I was actually looking forward to this, it looked like it had potential and there’s no doubting that Russell Crowe is a great actor. So with all this in mind it seemed like I was in for a good time.

Well sadly, I was wrong. As much as I’d love to be writing a positive review here, I just simply can’t. In my opinion this was a mess of a film and I honestly don’t understand how it got released without anyone saying anything beforehand, I’m being serious.

The whole thing was just so generic and when they finally got to the possessed boy and he started speaking in his demonic voice, I actually buerst out laughing, a reaction which I’m sure the film makers weren’t going for.

And don’t evenget me started on the incredibly awful CGI, it was like something from a bad 90’s film. With news on a potential sequel/franchise being confirmed I just hope they learn from this film and try to rectify their mistakes.

“The Pope’s Exorcist” was sadly a massive let down, I honestly can’t think of any redeemable qualities to try and end on a positive note. It had a ton of potential but just ultimately fails.

If you want to see the “The Pope’s Exorcist” trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

While researching the life and work of Fr. Gabriel Amorth, Russell Crowe discovered that Amorth’s personal favorite movie was The Exorcist (1973), so much so, that Amorth became good friends with its director William Friedkin who later directed a documentary of Amorth’s work as an exorcist, The Devil and Father Amorth (2017).

Russell Crowe came up with the idea of Gabriele Amorth riding a Lambretta. He was inspired by seeing priests driving through Rome on Lambrettas and wanted to include it in the film.

According to an interview with Daniel Zovatto, in his research, he found out that Fr. Amorth would often keep a sense of humour when conducting exorcisms because though the devil enjoyed irony, he hated humour. The example of demons liking irony is prominent in the scene where the possessed child causes the cross to fall off the wall saying, “Did God allow that?” and the demon’s disgust for humour is noticeable in the next moment where the child says, “You can’t hide behind your jokes forever, Gabriele.”

Based on the life of Gabriele Amorth. Italian priest and exorcist of the diocese of Rome.

The explanation of the meaning of the round medal that Father Gabriel uses in the film is the reverse side of a St. Benedictine medal in reverse.

Above the Cross is the word pax (peace), that has been a Benedictine motto for centuries. Around the margin of the back of the medal, the letters V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B are the initial letters, as mentioned above, of a Latin prayer of exorcism against Satan: Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!)

Russell Crowe met with personal friends of Fr. Amorth including one who had accompanied Amorth on over 150 exorcisms, in order to better know the character he was playing.

According to an interview with a Vatican approved exorcist, he speculated that if Gabriele Amorth was alive, he would be disgusted by the use of his name and character treatment exploited in a film such as this, saying “He would be railing against (the movie).”

There is a brief scene in which Fr. Amorth walks away from the Colosseum in Rome. In an interview, Russell Crowe confirmed that this was a “wink and a nod” to Gladiator (2000).

Alex Essoe is only eleven years older than her on-screen daughter, Laurel Marsden.

Principal photography took place from August to October 2022 in Dublin and Limerick, Ireland and Rome, Italy. Scenes were filmed with Crowe in Trinity College in Dublin.

The pope in this film, portrayed by Franco Nero, is a fictionalized rendition of John Paul II who was pope in 1986, at which time this story takes place.

Production began in 2020 when Screen Gems bought the rights to Amorth’s story. After a directorial replacement and script revisions, filming took place from August to October 2022 in Ireland.

This film was released on 7th April 2023 which is also Russell Crowe’s 59th Birthday.

Franco Nero previously had a significant part in the similar exorcist film, The Rite (2011) written by screenwriter Michael Petroni, though his scene was cut from the film. Later, he would play the pope in this film, also written by Petroni.

According to Russell Crowe, during one of the screenings in New Zealand, a theater usher played a prank on the audience by striking a broom against the wall during one of the more frightening scenes, which greatly startled the audience.

Franco Nero who played the Pope in this movie, played Julius the manager of Hotel Continentale Rome in John Wick Chapter 2 (2017), who asked John Wick, “Are you here to kill the Pope?”.

Daniel Zovatto, who is no stranger to horror movies but is from a deeply religious family, asked for his parents’ permission and opinion before taking this role.

In June 2022, Russell Crowe was cast as Amorth. The following month, Alex Essoe and Daniel Zovatto joined the cast. In September, Franco Nero was cast as the Pope, while Laurel Marsden, Cornell S. John, and Peter DeSouza-Feighoney were added to the cast. Ralph Ineson voices the demon.

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