The Fantasy Review’s Spoiler-Free Review of The Pope’s Exorcist (2023).
I’m not a huge fan of demonic possessions in horror movies as most of them are unoriginal and follow essentially the same plots and tired tropes. The Pope’s Exorcist (2023), while not completely original, does a few interesting things that made me have a really good time with this one.
Russell Crowe is a fantastic actor, and I don’t know how they got him to be in this, but I am so glad they did! He brings out many sides of Father Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist for the Vatican, in The Pope’s Exorcist.
Crowe’s priest is very different to similar characters in other exorcism movies. Father Gabriele is witty, light-hearted, and confident. He puts you at ease during moments you might otherwise be scared, and I loved that – his character was truly a protector of humanity from Satan’s demons.
I’m not religious, so I don’t care if priests are good or bad characters in these things, but Crowe’s character is supposed to be a protector, so it would be weird if we, the viewers, didn’t feel safe in his hands.
The plot was pretty good – sure, it copied a few tired tropes, but it does so with a knowing smile and it moves on. The Da-vinci-Code-style mystery was pretty cool and an interesting addition to this genre.
I would say that the only negative is that this movie isn’t really scary. I said before that it feels safe watching it, which is great, but you can be scared while still being safe. There were very few moments I thought the demon would get the better of the exorcist.
Using tropes of the genre just for the sake of it also made it not scary, as I was taken out of the moment by its references to other movies. There is a time and a place for those kinds of things, and that’s not in a tense scene.
I really enjoyed The Pope’s Exorcist and while I liked the ending, I don’t think a franchise of movies or a spin-off TV show would continue the story with the quality of this movie. It’s a standalone, and we can think about what comes next, instead of being disappointed by future entries. (There have been no reports of sequels, etc.)