Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Franco Nero
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
Rating: NC16 (Horror and Gore)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 6 April 2023
Synopsis: Inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican (Academy Award®-winner Russell Crowe), The Pope’s Exorcist follows Amorth as he investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
Do you believe in the devil and the harm that it brings? What can be worst than just being possessed?
The Pope’s Exorcist is based on files from the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, Father Gabriele Amorth, who has written many books on his experiences, and one of few cases that ended up with an uncovering of an old conspiracy, supposedly hidden by the Vatican itself.
Honestly, one might come into the theatre thinking that it is some horror film. Upon watching it, it does not feel very typical of the horror genre, but instead is much closer to a psychological thriller.
The film started off slow, introducing one to the works of the exorcist, and then slowly panning out and giving us a snippet of his life, while the main story slowly unfolds at the side and then intertwines with his involvement, brewing up what would be the film’s main focus of a nearly impossible case of exorcism.
Although the pacing of the film is quite smooth, one cannot help but feel that most of the real excitement only picked up nearly halfway through the show, leaving one in a neutral state for a while. The development might be done on purpose and seem to suggest a more naturalistic approach to the film.
The fact that the film showcased other languages (mainly Italian) that reflect the possibly accurate portrayal of the Pope’s exorcist and his surroundings is good effort at keeping the story true to its authenticity.
What was rather impressive was Russell Crowe’s effortless attempt in switching between Italian and accented English, giving a believable and somewhat smooth performance. And with a cast that did not scream ‘Hollywood’ much (apart from Russell himself), it keeps the film a little more down-to-earth.
Strangely, this film is somewhat lacking and not as impactful as it should and could be. While it focussed on accuracy and a good portrayal of actual events, it ended up losing ‘soul’ and possibly making the film more dull. Even with fantasy-like CGI at certain parts to create imaginative thoughts (and probably to slightly exaggerate the demonising of parts of the exorcism and certain scenes) and makeup, it did not and could not totally engage.
The film did try to infuse humour sparingly, however while it did add a little colour to the film and ease possible tensions, it was not greatly outstanding and did not bring the film out from its monotony.
Overall, The Pope’s Exorcist did put in much effort in keeping quite true to its story in the best way possible, but it does not seem engaging enough and fell rather flat. In a social media-driven market with many possibilities, somehow the film seem more jaded than it should be.
It is not to say that it is not a pleasant film at all. It only feels less impactful than it should be. It is but a pity because it had the potential, but it did not strike a good balance to keep the audience going.
(An interesting [and rather disturbing] watch that is rather informative, but not intriguing enough to warrant a watch on a weekend)
Review by Ron Tan