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The Pope's Exorcist

A surprisingly enjoyable throwback to 70's horror films like "The Omen", THE POPE'S EXORCIST is inspired by the real life files of Father Gabriele Amorth. As the chief exorcist of the Vatican, Amorth oversaw hundreds of exorcisms, 98% of which he decreed were treatments for mental illness.

But those other 2%....

Russell Crowe stars as Amorth and he's a surprisingly good fit. Humorous, at times irreverent and bringing "Gladiator" vibes as he hob nobs around Rome, Crowe is a blast.

The film focuses on single mom Julia (Alex Essoe from "The Haunting of Bly Manor") and her two children, young Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) and his teenage sister Amy (Laurel Marsden) as they move into an old Abbey in the Italian countryside. Newly widowed, it's Julia's only source of income from her late husband. Young Henry hasn't spoken a word since his father died in a gruesome car accident.

The family's trauma accelerates when things begin to go BANG BANG BANG (bump seemed like an understatement) in the night.

Henry begins manifesting some very scary behavior and when local Priest, Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) arrives, Henry throws him across the room like a rag doll.

Meanwhile in Rome, Father Amorth is facing demons of his own in the persona of smug new wave priests who don't believe in exorcisms or "the old ways".

I enjoyed Crowe in these scenes. He's loose, in control and then suddenly explosive in vintage-Crowe form. Amorth reports only to the Pope (Franco Nero from "Camelot" and "Die Hard 2") so he's not worried about his job security.

His boss, the Pontiff, seems especially concerned when he sends him off to look into Henry's possession.

I'm not going to reveal any more, as everything that happens after Crowe arrives is a lot of old-school horror fun. That courtyard exploration next to the Abbey reminded me of the scene with Gregory Peck and David Warner rooting around the cemetery for Damien's Mom in "The Omen". Jed Kurzel is no Jerry Goldsmith, but his music score is pretty good at conjuring up rumbling terror at all the right pitch black moments.

Everything you want in a possession movie is here. Jump scares, levitations, lots of spewing body fluids and a mega-Demon that knows exactly what scares you. I had way more fun than I expected to as Crowe goes Roman Catholic Maximus on the Prince of Darkness.

The entire cast is very good and young DeSouza-Feighoney is excellent as Henry.

Kudos to the sound design team and whoever dubs the voice of the Demon. The sounds emanating from Henry's mouth are a 10+ on the creep factor.

It all gets a little out of hand and silly as the historical significance of the Abbey is detailed, but it's never boring. Every time it threatens to go off the rails, we get a scene like the one in which Crowe is preparing Father Esquibel to perform the exorcism with him. When the younger man tells Amorth that he hasn't confessed his sins in 8 months, Amorth pauses and pretty much says "that will take too long, badda bing badda boom, you're forgiven". It's unexpectedly funny.

Scaring up over $60 million at the box-office an an $18 million budget, Crowe and company delivered a money making minor hit.

An enjoyable horror appetizer while I wait for "The Exorcist: Believer" main course this Halloween starring Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, THE POPE'S EXORCIST gets a B-.

Who knew watching Russell Crowe zipping around on a Vespa, his black robes billowing out behind him like a holy Superman could be this much fun?

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