At The Movies: The Pope’s Exorcist
Set in Italy and Spain, The Pope’s Exorcist portrays the real-life memoir of the late Vatican’s Chief Exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth. For 36 years, Father Amorth led thousands of exorcisms and was simultaneously cynical of his job. He was known to recognise the possibility that mental or physiological illness could be mistaken for “demonic possession”. Focusing on only a few accounts of possession and the characters own traumas, this film has more complex layers compared to any other exorcist film.
With various historical references, this horrific drama also explores how personal past traumas can interfere with your present life.
Inspired by the actual dairies, books and recollections of Father Gabriele Amorth’s unconventional and unique exorcism’s, this supernatural horror film meets most elements horror fans strive to be satisfied by when enjoying exorcist stories. With the traditional tropes like the “You’re all going to die” line and the textbook disfigured bodies scattered throughout, The Pope’s Exorcist will have you literally biting your nails off and wincing away from the screen at the visceral gore during possession scenes.
Beginning in 1987 in the small town of Reggio, Calabria, The Pope’s Exorcist sets a gritty dark tone from the first minute. With a prologue quoting Father Amorth and his reflections of the Devil, the audience are thrust into this horror depicting the age-old of question of whether the Devil and evil exist. The groovy soundtrack and hip young actors playing siblings Amy and Henry, interestingly juxtapose the eeriness of the isolated rural setting and ornate gothic castle-like home, when the audience are taken to Spain. You will feel squeamish as the film is shot through a sickly green light filter and warm lens, contrasting in an oddly beautiful way with the red highlights during haunting key scenes. It’s mise-en-scene and audio-visual effects are disturbingly delightful to watch, with a perfect mix of traditional and modern horror film tropes and camera techniques, like the 360 degree pan around main characters or the uncomfortable upside down camera tilt present in some scenes.
Father Amorth, along with his sidekick Father Tomas, exorcise demons and heal characters afflictions in the coolest Batman-and-Robin way. Almost like superheroes, with Amorth donning a long black trench coat and Tomas with his youthful handsomeness, these priests satiate our appetites for gory exorcisms and bloody demonic battles. The seriousness of outwardly violent and erotic scenes is somewhat lightened by the comedic and witty interjections of Crowe’s character. Crowe’s accurate portrayal of a professional exorcist and Father Amorth’s personality traits were spawned from his research during his visit to Rome in preparation for the role.
The violence is grotesque, which will please horror fans and the disturbingly brilliant portrayal by Russell Crowe as the coffee-loving scooter-cruising Father Gabriele Amorth makes The Pope’s Exorcist a new favourite for your must-see exorcist film list.
Movie Review By Zara Zampaglione