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The Pope’s Exorcist (2023) Review

This is my review for the 2023 movie “The Pope’s Exorcist”. My expectations for this movie for low. I have no real emotional investment in Russell Crowe and I have no belief in the “based on true events” nonsense that the marketing campaign for this movie has been pushing. However, I will always give horror a chance.

What is The Pope’s Exorcist about?

The Pope’s Exorcist is a by-the-books religious horror movie. A young boy is possessed by a demon and a prestigious exorcist must do all that he can to save him. In doing so, he uncovers hidden secrets of the Vatican and must confront some of his own past.

There’s not a lot new here, it feels like five of these movies are churned out every year. The main thing that this movie’s marketing team have been trying to push is that it’s “based on true events”. In reality, it’s based on books written by an exorcist, who believed that yoga is the work of Satan. It’s a good gimmick, though.

Religious horror

I’ve never really been a big fan of religious horror. There are two main types of horror movies, in my opinion – camp horror and elevated horror. Camp horror, like Scream or Malignant, is fun and doesn’t itself too seriously. There’s a ridiculous element to it and it’s fun to watch. Elevated horror makes you think and will have more to say than just scaring you, think Get Out or Speak No Evil. Sometimes, a movie will walk the line between both. Barbarian was campy fun, but also had things to say about misogyny and toxic masculinity.

In my opinion, the only time a horror movie is bad is when it’s boring. It’s when a movie takes itself too seriously to be camp and when it has nothing interesting to say, to make up for that. Religious horror often tends to fall into that pit: it takes itself seriously and is too busy with its religious themes to say anything unique.

I am happy to report that this movie manages to avoid this pitfall. It’s camp.

The Pope’s Exorcist Review

It takes a little bit to get going, after an engaging opening scene, but once the gears are shifted – the atmosphere in this movie is tense. Despite a low body count, the tension is constantly there and there is some genuinely creepy imagery in a few scenes. This movie really nails a horror tone… for the most part.

The exception to this is whenever the main demon speaks. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I’m sorry. You have a small child talking in a husky demon voice shouting expletives and sexual remarks at priests. It doesn’t feel very threatening, but it’s certainly entertaining. It may not be what the filmmakers intended, but it clears the camp bar for me.

Russell Crowe does a fine job leading this movie. His charisma stops the movie from getting stale in some of the downtime and while his Italian accent could use some work, he makes it work. The rest of the cast gave unimpressive performances, though they weren’t helped here by the script. One scene in this movie had me wildly gesturing at the screen in disbelief at how ridiculous one of the characters was acting. I’m nothing if not dramatic.

Is there going to be a The Pope’s Exorcist sequel?

The movie ends with the titular exorcist being informed about a number of other “gateways to hell” that he must deal with. It feels like obvious sequel-bait. Given the amount of source material available, it does seem obvious that if this movie is a success – we can expect to see a few more of these pumped out, assuming Crowe is willing to do more.

I can’t say that I, personally, see the potential here. I’m not sure what else there is to do with this story – beyond just repeating this adventure with a slightly different demon. I suppose we will have to wait and see what the future holds.

Who should watch this movie?

You probably already know whether or not you like religious horror. If you do, then this is a solid entry and I’m sure you’ll have a great time. If you’re a bit iffy on the religious aspects, like me – this one might be worth a go, if you’re bored. It’s enjoyable and certainly not the worst of the genre.

This was my review for the 2023 movie “The Pope’s Exorcist”. Did you enjoy this movie? Let me know in the comments below.

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