Horror cinema has a special section for two genres that never stop having movies, whatever the decade or political climate, one is that of killer sharks, and the other is that of Catholic possessions and Roman exorcisms, for this reason It is not surprising that a film like ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’, a luxurious and unrestrained fantastic version of a concept very given to the exploitation of the same classic: ‘The Exorcist’ (1973).
Like George A. Romero’s zombie movies, few works can claim the responsibility of creating an entire genre that seems to go on forever. Probably, except for the only official sequel, none has lived up to William Friedkin’s. But the public and film producers don’t care. The genre of possessions is treated with honors and Few studio horror movies get a decent budget and the big-time commercial treatment.and how are you Not by chance this is starring Russell Crowe.
Far from being a by-product in which you find an actor on the down-low, the film gives him the opportunity to do one of his best roles in recent years, probably since he showed his comic vis in ‘Two good guys’. Here he plays the head of the exorcists of the Vatican, Gabriele Amorth, —about whom Friedkin made a documentary—, which makes the film have a certain responsibility on its shoulders, since he is a respected and well-known figure within the church. This makes for a large budget, a production full of locations and a large-scale concept of the film.
More ‘Infernal Possession’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ than real facts
Something smells like Hollywood with the reboot-sequel to Blumhouse’s ‘The Exorcist’ that Big budget exorcism movies keep coming out. If last year we had the female version of the idea with ‘Pray for the Devil’ —and its Mexican cousin, ‘The Exorcist’—, which remained somewhat shy in offering a vision for adults, in Spain we have seen the most critical with the process in the highly undervalued ’13 Exorcisms’, the real face of the controversy of the ritual and the problem of its possible victims, with a Spanish case that, in reality, is a tragedy.
‘The Pope’s exorcist’ also has a case in Castilla, supposedly taken from the priest’s memories, but his approach could not be more different. If Hollywood tends to get solemn when dealing with real cases of exorcists who tell their stories, like when Anthony Hopkins was a master exorcist in the more subtle ‘The Rite’ (2011), here the filmmaker Julius Avery takes the route of circus extravaganza, turning Crowe into a quirky Indiana Jones with Sotana in an adventurous approach that Demián Bichir already put into practice in ‘La monja’.
And there is something from the Warren universe in this new movie of possessions, mainly in the fact of turning a protagonist almost into a comic book superhero, although Far from focusing on scares like James Wan productions, he prefers the theatrical display of evil forces.the representation of good against evil as a shaking of paranormal effects, light, fire, explosion and impossible levitations, focusing the exorcism process on overcoming pyrotechnic hallucinations and impact images.
A character we would see a series about
However, what really marks the difference with the Warren films is that the main character is much more worked. Crowe is a torrent of charisma, it is really very well written and he manages to play in his favor the real Amorth’s past as a partisan to capture all the sympathies of the viewer, who can also enjoy the actor riding a Lambretta through the streets of Rome, with his cassock and red socks. He also repeats his feat of touring Europe to Spain and back to Rome that he did in ‘Gladiator’ in record time.
The Italian exorcist is halfway between Van Helsing from ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ and Father Vergara from ’30 Coins’, but in addition, the film also enters into Vatican internal struggles reminiscent of that and the long-awaited series of ‘El Exorcist’. This subplot hides an interesting background about the atonement of the sins of the church that works as a poison dartleaving in the air the idea that the inquisition and other controversies in the church are the work of the devil, who wants to destroy it from within.
A not gratuitous comment at a time when the most conservative factions of the church seem to conjure up against “the progressive Pope”, who here can be virtualized in the figure of Franco Nero as the Holy Father, a casting choice that is quite a declaration of intent. But the idea does not end there, and the classic “trauma” of the exorcist changes here an exorcism that goes wrong for neglecting the cry for help of a victim of ecclesiastical sexual abuse. They will say that this is another religious propaganda film, but go with the propaganda.
Wood from great horror franchise
Fortunately, ‘The Exorcist of the Pope’ is one of those films that does not support its solemn and he never lets gravity contaminate his mythological depiction of the ritual itself, the fight with the devil that appropriates the forms and manners of the most carefree Italian exploitation, with grotesque make-up, crooked necks, flying fluids and a kinetic of the possessed that is reminiscent of the ‘Evil Dead’ saga at many times. As in her ‘Overlord’, Avery offers a vision of big-budget horror with a pulp soul, although she lacks that same point of being able to go crazier and stay at the gates.
However, the management is impeccable and in exchange for relative containment, he gives us an amazing production designwith corridors full of skulls, hidden chambers like cursed ossuaries that follows the film tradition with evil hidden in basements or walls of old churches present in the episode of the Hammer series ‘Mystery’, called ‘And the Wall Came Tumbling Down’ (1984), ‘The Prince of Darkness’ (1987), ‘The devil’s spawn (1989) or, of course, the two prequels to ‘The Exorcist’ that appeared in 2004.
‘The Exorcist of the Pope’ is a real surprise that takes all the known elements of the genre and turns them up in a pulp tone with levitations, fire and action that work thanks to the sardonic and ever-present humor of its main character, a bet of horror and study adventure that is not cut with gore and that in a cabal world it should become a franchise which could be serialized as a Vertigo graphic novel, with Crowe and his student searching the world for gates of hell like the James Wood of John Carpenter’s ‘Vampires’. David Gordon Green has very high standards.
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