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THE POPE’S EXORCIST’s cliched narrative and badly edited ending, courtesy of the Censor Board in India, spoil the joy.

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The Pope’s Exorcist (English) Review {2.5/5} & Review Rating

THE POPE’S EXORCIST is a story of a priest who discovers a deeply hidden secret of the Church while investigating the possession of a young boy. On July 1, 1987, Julia (Alex Essoe) and her children Amy (Laurel Marsden) and Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) arrive in Castile, Spain from the USA. Julia lost her husband and ever since Henry has gone mute. Both he and Amy have also grown distant from her. Julia is in Castile to restore St. Sebastian’s Abbey. It belongs to her husband’s family and they aim to sell the property after restoration as this is their only way to raise money. The restoration process leads to the awakening of a demon hidden inside the abbey. Soon, the demon possesses Henry. Julia approaches a local priest, Father Thomas Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto). But the demon attacks him and insists that this is not the priest he wants to interact with. The news of Henry’s possession reaches the Pope. Meanwhile, in the Vatican, Father Gabriele Amorth (Russel Crowe), the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, has been summoned after he performs an unauthorized exorcism at Tropea, Italy on June 4 of the same year. The panel is of the opinion that such acts can make the Church irrelevant and that it’s important to move on with modern times. The same day, the Pope (Franco Nero) asks Father Gabriele to head to Castile to help Henry. At the abbey, Father Gabriele meets the demon and realizes that it’s far more powerful than any other evil spirit he has come across. On top of that, the demon can correctly predict the guilt that Father Gabriele has been carrying for years. Father Gabriele believes he can defeat the demon but for that, he needs to know its name. But the demon knows the tricks of Father Gabriele and won’t divulge its true identity. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Movie Review: The Pope's Exorcist (English)

THE POPE’S EXORCIST is based on Father Gabriele Amorth’s memoirs, ‘An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories’. Michael Petroni, R Dean McCreary and Chester Hastings’ story is promising and that it’s probably inspired by true events makes it intriguing. Michael Petroni and Evan Spiliotopoulos’s screenplay is effective in the beginning portions and while introducing the characters and the setting. Later on, it gets clichéd. The dialogues are powerful and the comic one-liners bring respite from the tensions and scares.

Julius Avery’s direction is first-rate. He understands the technical aspects that are required to pull off a film of this kind. He makes good use of the location and also peppers the narrative with several jumpscares. A few scenes are well executed like Father Gabriele meeting the Vatican panel, Father Gabriele meeting the possessed Henry and Father Gabriele and Father Thomas going underground in the abbey. The introduction scene, featuring the Tropea episode, is quite good too.

On the flipside, the film doesn’t offer anything new, especially if one is following horror films regularly. The climax is filled with tension but again, it has been beaten to death. The second half gets a little slow. And the biggest issue with the film is that the viewers in India won’t be able to exactly decipher what happened in the climax. This is because important shots, involving frontal nudity, have been mercilessly chopped off by the Censors. Ideally, the Censor Board should have blurred the private parts. By removing these visuals, the impact gets hampered and viewers will exit the theatre scratching their heads and wondering how exactly the demon gets defeated in the end.

Speaking of performances, Russell Crowe gives an effortless performance and also raises laughs. Daniel Zovatto doesn’t have much to do initially but later on, he leaves a huge mark. Alex Essoe is nothing special while Laurel Marsden is fair. Peter DeSouza-Feighoney is the star of the show. The manner in which he has played the part of the possessed kid is seen to be believed. Franco Nero, Ryan O’Grady (Cardinal Sullivan) and Cornell John (Bishop Lumumba) are fair.

Jed Kurzel’s music adds to the spine-chilling effect. Khalid Mohtaseb’s cinematography is very good and some shots are creatively shot. Alan Gilmore’s production design is as per the film’s mood. Lorna Marie Mugan’s costumes are realistic. The action is not disturbing. VFX is top-class. The make-up and prosthetics are praiseworthy. Matt Evans’s editing could have been sharper.

On the whole, THE POPE’S EXORCIST rests on an interesting premise, fine performances and some scary moments. But the clichéd narrative and badly edited ending, courtesy of the Censor Board in India, spoil the joy.

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